Republicans Seek a Vote on Obamacare Provision in Tax Extenders

The Senate’s controversial amendments process could claim another victim.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) participates in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform on Capitol Hill on April 22, 2013 in Washington, D.C. 
National Journal
Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini
May 13, 2014, 7:09 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans are plan­ning to of­fer a spate of amend­ments on a bi­par­tis­an tax-ex­tenders pack­age, with a re­peal of a med­ic­al-device tax chief among them, law­makers said Tues­day.

The GOP ef­fort comes as Sen­ate Demo­crats are try­ing to re­new sev­er­al dozen tax pro­vi­sions that ex­pire at the end of the year. There’s gen­er­al agree­ment among law­makers that passing the ex­tenders be­ne­fits the pub­lic and busi­nesses alike, des­pite the nearly $81 bil­lion the pack­age will add to the de­fi­cit. The le­gis­la­tion passed the Fin­ance Com­mit­tee on a bi­par­tis­an voice vote, and the Sen­ate voted 96-3 Tues­day on a pro­ced­ur­al mo­tion to be­gin de­bate on the com­mit­tee’s bill.

But com­ing after the de­feat of the bi­par­tis­an en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill this week, there are signs that the Sen­ate’s amend­ment pro­cess could claim an­oth­er vic­tim.

Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id says he wants to see what Re­pub­lic­ans will of­fer, and he did not com­mit to let­ting them of­fer any amend­ments, which has been a ma­jor source of ten­sion in the cham­ber. Moreover, Re­id has ruled Obama­care amend­ments out of bounds in the past and has said he is not con­cerned about the ef­fect the tax is hav­ing on the med­ic­al-device in­dustry.

“I’m not go­ing to cry any big tears over the device folks,” Re­id said. “Their profits were huge last year.”

The bill, called the EX­PIRE Act, in­cludes some 55 pro­vi­sions, such as the Work Op­por­tun­ity tax cred­it, which en­cour­ages em­ploy­ers to hire vet­er­ans, as well as the Re­search and Ex­per­i­ment­a­tion tax cred­it.

The med­ic­al-device pro­vi­sion places a 2.3-per­cent tax on the sale of devices and helps pay for the Af­ford­able Care Act’s in­sur­ance ex­changes and Medi­caid ex­pan­sion, ac­cord­ing to Kais­er Health News. Re­peal­ing that pro­vi­sion could cost the gov­ern­ment $30 bil­lion in rev­en­ue over 10 years.

For Re­pub­lic­ans, re­peal­ing the tax fits with their cri­tique of Obama­care and of­fers an op­por­tun­ity to sug­gest that Demo­crats are be­hav­ing hy­po­crit­ic­ally. Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers, for ex­ample, poin­ted to a non­bind­ing vote on re­peal of the tax in March of last year that passed with the sup­port of 34 Demo­crats.

“When it really mat­ters, they’re say­ing, “˜Oh, I don’t think I want to take that vote,’” said Sen. John Bar­rasso of Wyom­ing. “You’re either for it or against it.”

While Re­id did not close the door on al­low­ing amend­ments, Re­pub­lic­ans don’t sound op­tim­ist­ic that they will have a chance to pick their own meas­ures, and they have be­gun to refer to their in­ab­il­ity to get votes on their le­gis­la­tion as a Re­id-im­posed “gag or­der.”

“Sen­at­or Re­id, un­less he woke up on the right side of the bed this morn­ing, I don’t think is go­ing to change his po­s­i­tion on amend­ments,” said Minor­ity Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “And that’s really re­gret­table.”

The le­gis­la­tion faces two more pro­ced­ur­al roll calls with a 60-vote threshold, ac­cord­ing to Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic aides, mean­ing that the Sen­ate won’t likely fin­ish the bill un­til next week. While the amend­ments pro­cess fueled par­tis­an dis­agree­ments as re­cently as this week, it’s still un­clear wheth­er enough Re­pub­lic­ans will act to block the bill from ul­ti­mately passing.

“I just think there’s enough sup­port — there are 55 pro­vi­sions,” Cornyn said. “So every­body’s got something in there that they like, and every­body’s got something in there that they hate.”

Even if the meas­ure passes, the House is pur­su­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, tak­ing up the ex­tenders in piece­meal fash­ion. Cornyn said he ex­pects the dif­fer­ences to be worked out between the cham­bers later this year.

While many law­makers would like to see a broad­er over­haul of the tax sys­tem, they also ad­mit that it’s too chal­len­ging to un­der­take in the short win­dow be­fore the ex­tenders ex­pire at the end of the year. Fin­ance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ron Wyden is fram­ing the bill as a “bridge” to a tax-code over­haul.

“Every­body knows our tax code is in bad shape,” Wyden said. “It’s com­plic­ated and opaque, and it needs fix­ing. The tax code should pro­mote eco­nom­ic growth and treat every­one fairly. A lot of mem­bers of Con­gress have worked hard to de­vel­op ideas. But tax re­form isn’t hap­pen­ing to­mor­row.”

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
22 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×