House Dems: Device tax out of bounds

House Democratic leaders are amplifying their opposition to a repeal of a new medical device tax as part of legislation to reopen the government or raise the debt limit. 

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Republicans in both chambers have urged the elimination of the tax, which is helping to fund ObamaCare, as an amendment to a government spending bill.

But Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, hammered that plan Friday, arguing that ObamaCare provisions have no place in the immediate budget fights. 

"Is this what it's all been about?" Crowley asked after a closed-door caucus meeting in the Capitol. "Shutting down the United States government [and] threatening to default on our national debt has come down to one small particular aspect of the Affordable Care Act — really? 

"The Affordable Care Act was legislated, was litigated, and there was a national election that took place in which President Obama was reelected," he said. "And so the American people have spoken. They want to have the opportunity for this law to have a chance." 

The remarks came just an hour before Senate Republicans met with Obama to push a proposal that would temporarily raise the debt ceiling, fund the government for a year at sequester levels, and eliminate the 2.3 percent medical device tax hike enacted in Obama's 2010 healthcare law. 

House Republicans last month passed a repeal of the medical device tax as part of their continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Dec. 15, but the amendment was shot down by Senate Democrats, who returned a "clean" CR to the House. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had initially tried to move a clean CR, but opposition from conservative Republicans forced him to alter that strategy and fight instead to defund, delay or derail all or parts of ObamaCare as part of the package. 

The device tax language was one iteration of that effort. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned this week that any provision to scale back ObamaCare as part of the current fiscal fights is a nonstarter. "None of these suggestions is acceptable," she said. 

The opposition from House Democrats is significant because Boehner has struggled all year to unite his conference behind must-pass legislation. And any deals cut with Obama on the shutdown and debt limit are expected to be no exception. 

Obama has said repeatedly that he would not negotiate over the debt ceiling or the shutdown but is prepared to discuss broader budget issues after those two crises are resolved  a message that has been echoed by Democratic leaders for weeks.

"Let's not tinker with the American economy. … Let's get that out of the way," Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Friday, referring to the immediate fights. 

"Then we can sit and talk about anything and everything."