House votes to repeal medical device excise tax

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The House voted 280–140 on June 18 to repeal the medical device excise tax. The bill (H.R. 160) now moves to the Senate, where it will face significant hurdles.

H.R. 160 would repeal the medical device excise tax for sales in calendar quarters beginning after the date of enactment. An earlier version of the bill would have repealed the tax retroactive to its inception in 2013, but the retroactive effective date was dropped by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The House action represents only a small step toward repeal. The House has voted for full repeal in past years only for the legislation to die in the Senate. The Senate and the White House still present major obstacles. Republicans now control the Senate, but need 60 votes to overcome filibusters and other procedural hurdles. There may be enough Democrats in the Senate who support repeal, because 46 House Democrats voted for it. But a vote would be close, with many Democrats objecting to the $25 billion cost. Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he didn’t think he could move the bill on its own, but would seek to attach it to other legislation.

Even if repeal survives the Senate, the White House has threatened a veto. The best hope for Republicans to avoid a veto is likely through horse-trading with the president over other priorities or combining a repeal bill with other legislation that is difficult for the president to veto.

Mel Schwarz
+1 202 521 1564

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