Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stumbled over his own words when rejecting efforts to repeal the medical device tax, calling the levy itself "stupid" and taking it back immediately.
His comments suggested a bubbling frustration as the government attempts to find ways to avoid impending shutdown, with latest efforts hinging on a 1-week continuing resolution that would give lawmakers a small stay of execution to work out a deal before they lose funding.
Reid’s adamant refusal falls in line with comments made this month by fellow Democrats, who have responded with inflexibility to the increasing commotion about the medical device tax.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week that the President still refuses to budge on the device tax, a measure put in place by the Affordable Care Act and expected to help raise about $30 billion over the next 10 years to help fund healthcare reform. Carney said during a press conference that President Obama would reject out of hand any continuing resolution that contains a bill to repeal the 2.3% medical device sales tax, The Hill reported.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told Politico that the industry’s efforts to repeal the bill, which was the result of negotiations between device makers and lawmakers, would be tantamount to welshing on a deal.
"That industry contributed to a solution; they agreed to the tax, essentially, as did other industries. It’s improper at this point to go back on the deal," Baucus said. "Also, it’d leave a deficit hole. … Who’s going to pay for getting them off the hook?"
There is still a large swell of support for repealing the levy, especially in the Republican-ruled House of Representatives. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), co-author with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) of a repeal bid, termed the tax a "stupid dumb-ass thing" earlier this week. The measure gained a 5th Democratic supporter when North Carolina’s junior senator, Kay Hagan, signed on Sept. 23.
Hatch’s remarks followed a joint statement from John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) opened up a new front in the war against the tax in a joint statement citing the "egregious" tax’s "destructive" impact on the U.S. medtech industry.
A measure to repeal the tax easily passed in the House last year on a 242-173 vote and another bid had 261 co-sponsors as of today. But a Senate bill repealing the medical device tax is unlikely to win in the upper chamber and would almost certainly be a dead letter if sent to President Obama (a symbolic, non-binding repeal vote passed the Senate 79-20 earlier this year).