By Bernie Becker - 09/24/13 10:36 PM EDT
But even as Senate Republicans lobby for a repeal vote, it remains more likely that the House would move first to roll back the tax.
House GOP leaders have discussed attaching a repeal of the tax to whatever stopgap spending bill they receive from the Senate, a measure they could receive as late as Sunday. The current government funding measure expires at the end of the next day, Sept. 30.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSuper-PAC targets Portman on trade Dem leader urges compromise on FCC set-top box plan Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (D-Nev.) has already said that he would amend the funding measure to keep the government running through Nov. 15, and to strip House-passed language that would defund the healthcare law.
GOP senators are pushing for other amendment votes related to ObamaCare, but Reid, who opposed a nonbinding measure backing repeal of the medical device tax, could easily stand in the way.
Still, Sens. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGoonies, Pokemon and ‘transsexual shake’ speak to raucous scene at convention GOP passes rules vote over outcry from Trump opponents Overnight Healthcare: Feds defend ObamaCare's affordability MORE (R-Wyo.) and John HoevenJohn HoevenMajority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Death threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA MORE (R-N.D.) said they expected a repeal measure to be offered as an amendment, and Hatch said that he would push to get the medical device tax in the discussions over the debt limit if opponents can’t get it repealed in the funding debate.
Sens. John McCainJohn McCainFox News bests major networks in convention ratings Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ Ex-UN ambassador John Bolton: Trump should take back NATO remarks MORE (R-S.C.) first broached the idea of considering a repeal of the tax on Monday.
It’s easy to see why Republicans would latch on to medical device tax, given that it’s among the more unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act among Democrats.
Opponents of the tax say it would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, and put a crimp on a high-tech field that creates pacemakers, artificial hearts and an array of devices.
"We have a lot of very brilliant companies that are right on the cusp and that just puts them right off the cusp," Hatch said.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding measure – 79-20 – backing the repeal of the tax during the debate over its budget resolution this year.
Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Senators launch broadband caucus Spotify vs. Apple comes to Washington MORE (D-Minn.) and Al FrankenAl FrankenWhy Kaine is the right choice for Clinton Liberals press Clinton not to pick Kaine for VP Franken: Convention 'ugliest' I've seen MORE (D-Minn.) – whose state has a healthy medical device industry – have both been out front in pushing for repeal.
Sen. Kay HaganKay Hagan10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016 Senate Republicans are feeling the 'Trump effect' Washington's lobby firms riding high MORE (D-N.C.) recently joined legislation to roll back the tax as well, and other vulnerable Democratic senators backed the earlier budget vote.
In the House, a repeal measure sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) has roughly 260 co-sponsors, including some three dozen Democrats.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinOpioid package clears key Senate hurdle Overnight Healthcare: Feds defend ObamaCare's affordability DNC chief spared in Sanders-Clinton talks: report MORE (D-Ill.) said he too could be open to backing a repeal measure with more teeth, as long as it didn't hurt the overall funding for the healthcare law.
“I have said from the beginning we should be open to changes in the Affordable Care Act,” said Durbin, who also voted for this year's budget amendment. “That is one I would consider – as long as the revenue is replaced, so there is no net loss in revenue.”
But both Reid and Senate Finance Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusGlover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft Wyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny MORE (D-Mont.) were among the 20 senators to oppose the budget measure. Baucus told reporters on Tuesday that it would be “unwise” to try to repeal the tax.
Supporters of the tax say they don’t believe the tax would hurt innovation in the medical device field, and that the healthcare law could eventually offset at least some of the cost of the tax.
Increasing the number of insured people in the U.S., supporters of the tax say, would also spark even more demand for medical devices.
Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson contributed.