The PJ Tatler

Daylight? Durbin Suggests the Obamacare Medical Device Tax Might be On the Table

President Obama and his sidekick, Harry Reid, have insisted that they will not negotiate over any aspect of Obamacare. But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggests that at least one unpopular part of the unpopular law may be negotiable.

Washington (CNN) – A repeal of the medical device tax may be a point of compromise between the House and Senate as the two houses of Congress work to end the government shutdown, the number two Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday.

“We can work on something, I believe, on the medical device tax. That was one of the proposals from Republicans, as long as we replace the revenue,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The medical device tax is a 2.3% excise tax created to in part fund Obamacare and went into effect at the beginning of 2013. The tax, which would raise about $30 billion in revenues over 10 years, is largely considered unpopular, including among some Democrats whose states harbor medical device employers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, for example, penned an op-ed for a trade magazine advocating for a repeal last year while she was running for the Senate.

House Republicans attached a repeal of the tax, along with a one-year delay of Obamacare, to one of the short-term spending bills, also known as a continuing resolution, it sent to the Senate in the last few days. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would not negotiate over Obamacare as long as it’s attached to the spending bill.

Every Democrat in the Senate and most in the House have voted this week to retain that unpopular tax, which has been blamed for shipping medical jobs from the US to overseas.

There is a catch in Durbin’s offer.

Durbin said he’s ready to put a medical device tax repeal “on the table,” but only on one condition. House Republicans must first pass a short-term spending bill without any anti-Obamacare provisions. Then, he said, the Senate will be prepared to separately reconcile with House Republicans on Obamacare–but only if the government is open and functioning.

Republicans should be wary. As soon as Democrats get what they want — a lifting of the shutdown and Obamacare unleashed — they may not come back to the table.