Senate Kills Medtech Tax, Obamacare Amendments, Sends Spending Bill Back to House

The U.S. Senate kills amendments to a spending bill that would have repealed the medical device tax and delayed Obamacare by a year, as the deadline to a federal shutdown nears.

The U.S. Senate rejected a pair of House amendments to a spending bill that would avert a government shutdown, sending the bare-bones funding measure back to the lower chamber, where legislators are said to be mulling further changes to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, the medical device tax repeal could still be on the table if a pay-for can be found, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today.

“[The medical device tax] is something we’ll take a look at, but this magnanimous, ‘Let’s just get rid of it’ [approach] would run up the debt by $30 billion, $30 billion with no offsets, no pay-for, just, ‘What does it matter?'” Reid said. “[Republicans] want it  because they are fixating on Obamacare.”

Over the weekend, a spokesman for House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there’s some wriggle room left over the medtech tax, a 2.3% levy on U.S. sales of prescribed medical devices.

“That is a potential compromise, if the Senate does that,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, terming the compromise “common sense,” told Politico. “We will make that decision when and if the Senate acts.”

Citing a symbolic, 79-20 Senate vote earlier this year for repeal, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Fox News Sunday that there’s some wriggle room in the bill, calling the medtech levy the “pacemaker tax.”

“I think the House will get back together and, in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at it again,” McCarthy said, according to the website. “I think there will be additions that I have found in the Senate, that Senate Democrats say they can support.”

Boehner, under pressure from Tea Party conservatives within the GOP, is reportedly prepping another bill that would eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate and some health insurance subsidies enjoyed by members of Congress and their staff, according to Politico, which cited “multiple sources.”

“We’re going to cut our salary by $5,000 to $10,000, but the president should live under Obamacare too,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said, according to the website.

Such a counter from the House would mean a shutdown is all but certain, as both the White House and Senate Democrats have refused to entertain any changes to the healthcare law in the spending bill.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was expected to promise “a healthy number of votes” from Democrats for a clean spending bill, according to Politico.

The House has voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare, which is slated to begin in earnest tomorrow when the 1st public health insurance exchanges go online. One irony of the shutdown will be that it won’t affect Obamacare, because social programs are exempt from the spending cuts (military members’ salaries are also exempt from the spending cuts).

Economists fear that a shutdown will trigger a slide that, in a worst-case scenario, could lead to another recession. Markets the world over blinked today after a House session that spanned late Saturday into Sunday’s wee hours resulted in votes to delay Obamacare by a year and repeal the medical device tax, pegging the amendments to a continuing resolution that would keep the federal government funded until Dec. 15.

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Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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