Senate Democrats refuse to negotiate on repealing Obamacare tax they hate

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Republicans on Capitol Hill say the Democratic Senate majority is refusing to negotiate on a continuing budget resolution that would delay Obamacare implementation by a year and repeal the law’s medical device tax, despite the fact that many Democratic senators are strongly opposed to the tax.

Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, have vowed to block the House Republican resolution, which delays Obamacare’s individual mandate by a year. Republican Rep. Tim Griffin said Sunday that high-level Democrats told him they plan to force a government shutdown that would be blamed on Republicans.

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin previously stated his support for an Obamacare delay, while many other Democratic senators have said in the past that they are amenable to the other major provision of the Republican resolution: repealing the medical device tax.

In December, 18 Democratic senators wrote a letter to Reid requesting a delay in the implementation of Obamacare’s 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers, many of which do business in Democratic senators’ home states.

“The medical technology industry directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million high-skilled manufacturing jobs. Additionally, this industry is also one of the few that enjoys a net trade surplus, significantly boosting U.S. exports around the globe,” the letter stated.

“In an environment focused on increasing exports, promoting small businesses, and growing high-tech manufacturing jobs for the future, we must do all we can to ensure that our country maintains its global leadership position in the medical technology industry and keeps good jobs here at home,” the letter continued.

“With this year quickly drawing to a close, the medical device industry has received little guidance about how to comply with the tax — causing significant uncertainty and confusion for businesses. We urge you to support delaying enactment of this provision in a fiscally responsible manner,” the letter added.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Al Franken of Minnesota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Chuck Schumer of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Patty Murray of Washington, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and then-Senator elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, among others.

The Obamacare provision’s 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers has sparked panic within the medical devices industry. Indiana-based Zimmer Holdings, which manufactures hip replacement implants, laid off 450 workers in 2012 in anticipation of $60 million in taxes. Michigan-based Stryker Corp., which also produces hip implants, laid off 5 percent of its workers in a bid to compensate for the $100 million it will pay in taxes in 2013.

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Patrick Howley