Medical device tax hypocrites

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported: “A group of 17 Democratic U.S. senators and senators-elect have signed a letter urging for a delay in implementing a tax on the medical-device industry that is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.” The signatories include a number of Democrats up for reelection in 2014 (Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) ). Well shame on all of them, each of whom voted for Obamacare including the medical device tax.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are among 17 senators wanting relief on the medical device tax. (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Don Stewart, communications director for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told me, “Any one of those senators could have stopped this job-killing tax simply by voting against Obamacare in the first place.” Oh, yes there is that. This is one of many taxes that falls on the decidedly not-rich segment of voters, in this case virtually anyone who uses any sort of medical equipment.

Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform, has detailed the slew of taxes in the legislation had this reaction via e-mail: “They voted for it before they sent a strongly worded letter against it. They obviously voted for a bill they had not read. They want credit for voting for the president’s Obamacare and also credit for ‘strongly, but meaninglessly’ objecting to at least one of taxes to pay for it.”

Perhaps if the Senate had not evaded its rules that would have permitted a filibuster (rather than misusing reconciliation) more careful consideration would have been given. The president’s health-care bill is chocked full of these anti-jobs, anti-growth taxes. (The spokesman for the Senate Budget Committee’s ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) wise cracked: “Just wait until they read all 2,700 pages.”)

It is ironic that on a bill that was shielded from amendments and extended debate Democrats want a do-over, while at the same trying to abolish the filibuster, which is the best device for preventing the majority from jamming through unwise legislation which no one has read. It is also telling that when taxes affect their constituents (and home state lobbyists) suddenly liberal senators recognize that when you tax something you get less of it. Too bad they don’t seem able to apply Obamacare’s lessons in other contexts.

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