The chairman of the Republican Senate Conference said this morning that they’re counting on constituents to whip five Democrats into crossing party lines and supporting the Obamacare/CR compromise from the House.
“All it takes is five Democrats to vote with Republicans to give the American people and the economy a break from Obamacare, the one-year delay that was called for in the House bill and a repeal of the medical device tax, which we like to refer to as the tax on pacemakers and insulin bumps because that’s what it is,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.) said this morning on Fox.
“And this could go back, and we could have this get the government funded for the next couple of months, at least, until December when we’ll revisit this issue but do something I think the American people want to see us do, and that is delay the effects of this harmful law. That’s something that we think in the Senate, if we could get five Democrats to cross the party line…”
The House bill scales back a wholesale defunding of Obamacare, which failed in the Senate last week, and instead delays implementation for a year. It also repeals the medical device tax, an issue that Democrats whose home states have been adversely affected have supported.
A bill introduced in February by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to repeal the excise tax on medical device manufacturers and importers includes Democratic co-sponsors Bob Casey (Pa.), Al Franken (Minn.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).
Some Democrats have not supported a repeal of the tax without a replacement of the revenue stream. A Democratic bill in the House this year tied the repeal of the medical device tax to eliminating tax credits for oil companies.
When asked if GOP senators are working their Dem colleagues to get crossovers, Thune said “we hope their constituents are.”
“You know, I think more than anything else, what’s going to change the equation on this is going to be pressure from back home. They have to hear from people they represent,” he said.
“And if that happens, it’s possible. I mean, I don’t think at this point, you know, we’re not optimistic, obviously, going into this vote based on what we’ve seen in the past from the Democrats, but I think as time wears on, people become more and more frustrated with this. They weigh in with their elected officials. There is hope. And I think that’s what we have to hope here is that the American people are gonna be heard from.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement last week, “I have always opposed the individual mandate, and I continue to have concerns with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the cost and choices West Virginians will have in the health care exchanges.”
“That being said, I do not believe that this issue should be used to shut down the government, and I will not vote to shut down the government,” Manchin added. “We need to work together as Americans to solve these problems so we can get our economy back on track and create American jobs.”
On Friday, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) showed no signs of give. “Today the Senate came together to pass a responsible measure that will keep our government open,” he said. “A government shutdown would be irresponsible and would put our nation’s economic security and credit rating in jeopardy. The American people are tired of the reckless ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ politics. I’m confident that reasonable members of the House will pass the Senate’s common-sense bill so we can continue to move our nation forward.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) hasn’t commented. Other potential Dem crossovers could be Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Max Baucus (Mont.) or Mark Udall (Colo.).
“I think in some respects, the president and Democrats here in Congress would like to see a government shutdown,” Thune said. “And so, obviously we on the Republican side are trying to avoid that and to move this stuff in as timely way as possible. But there’s been a lot of time lost, and obviously 2:00 o’clock this afternoon and who knows if the vote occurs right then. But it’s got to happen soon if we’re going to avert this midnight deadline that we have ahead of us.”
He put the shutdown odds at 50/50.
“I hope it can be avoided. We’re gonna do everything we can to avoid that,” Thune continue. “Obviously, as I said before, Republicans here on Capitol Hill have been work very hard to prevent that from happening. But it’s all going to be in the hands right now of the Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, and whether or not the president wants to get invested in this issue.”