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
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 »
GIULIANI SAID HE DIDN'T
Trump Signed Letter Of Intent For Moscow Project
5 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump signed a letter of intent to move forward with negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Russia, despite his attorney Rudy Giuliani claiming on Sunday the document was never signed." The letter, dated October 28, 2015, set the stage for "negotiations for Trump condominiums, a hotel and commercial property in the heart of Moscow ... [it] would've given Trump's company a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales and control over marketing and design."

Source:
WITHOUT USER CONSENT
Facebook Shared Private Information With Partner Companies
5 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules ... Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent ... and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages. The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier."

Source:
HOUSE TO VOTE LATER THIS WEEK
Criminal Justice Reform Bill Clears Senate
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate passed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill on Tuesday night, handing a significant victory to President Trump and senators who lobbied to advance the legislation before the end of the year. Senators voted 87-12 on the legislation, which merges a House-passed prison reform bill aimed at reducing recidivism with a handful of changes to sentencing laws and mandatory minimum prison sentences." The House aims to vote on the measure when it reconvenes later this week.

Source:
"EKE OUT" MORE COOPERATION
Judge Delays Flynn Sentencing
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan "agreed Tuesday to postpone Michael Flynn’s sentencing after a hearing to decide the punishment for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser went awry." Sullivan gave Flynn a chance to reconsider his decision to plead guilty, adding that he could not "guarantee a sentence without prison time, even after the special counsel’s office recommended that Flynn not be incarcerated. After a brief recess, Sullivan and prosecutors agreed to delay sentencing so that Flynn could "eke out the last modicum of cooperation."

Source:
VOTE IS 82-12
Senate Advances Criminal Justice Reform
21 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login