GOP plans to call attention to healthcare law with tax repeal votes next week

With a Supreme Court decision on healthcare fast approaching, House Republicans are doubling down on efforts to bring attention to President Obama’s signature legislative issue.

The effort, which includes votes on several measures to repeal taxes under the law, is intended to highlight unpopular aspects of the landmark bill as the presidential campaign between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney heats up.

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The House next week will consider measures to repeal taxes imposed on medical devices and over-the-counter medication.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced the votes late last month, and called the tax on medical devices in particularly “draconian” in a memo sent to GOP lawmakers.

Democrats argue the GOP effort is nakedly political and timed for the Supreme Court decision, which is expected this month. On Friday, Romney criticized Obama’s handling of the economy, arguing the nation would be creating more jobs if Obama had not focused on healthcare in 2009 and 2010.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) – a key player in brokering deals within his party to pass the healthcare bill – called the upcoming debate a “waste of time” and said the House should be focus on legislation to create jobs.

“(The timing) is probably not coincidental, I think the Republicans are trying to poison the well before the Court decision,” Andrews said in an interview with The Hill.

House Republicans, who rode a wave of voter outrage into power in 2010 unfurled in part by the healthcare law, dismiss the Democratic arguments.

“Well, I'm glad they are giving us that much credit in planning but obviously the medical tax bill has had a lot of bipartisan support for many weeks,” Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) told The Hill.

Only two Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.) and Shelly Berkley (Nev.) supported the medical device and over-the-counter drug bills at mark-up.

Debate at Thursday’s lengthy mark-up provided a flavor of what to expect when the measures hit the floor mid-week. 

Republicans argued that the tax-repeal bills will create and save jobs in the medical device industry.

Veteran Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) scoffed at the GOP’s “job creation” argument, calling the idea “nonsense.”

“It is not going to save jobs because you don't know what the impact is in fact, the evidence is that  it doesn't lose jobs,” the liberal lawmaker told his colleagues.