House passes stopgap bill that would delay medical device tax; Senate Dems vow filibuster

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Capitol HillSenate Democrats vowed to filibuster a stop-gap bill aimed at keeping the federal government open past a midnight deadline today, after the U.S. House yesterday passed the budget measure which would in part put a two-year pause on the medical device tax.

The 2.3% excise tax on U.S. medical device revenues was in effect for two years before a two-year moratorium began in 2016. It went back into effect at the beginning of this year, although the IRS said this week that it will not enforce any penalties for late payments of the medtech levy.

The House voted 230-197 to pass the stopgap bill, which also grants a six-year extension to Medicaid’s Children’s Health Insurance Program and pause other levies enacted as part of Obamacare, including the “Cadillac tax” for two years retroactive to Jan. 1 and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019.

Eleven House Republicans voted against and six Democrats voted for the bill, which would extend the shutdown deadline to Feb. 16, the Associated Press reported.

Senate Democrats last night promised to stall a vote on the measure because it does not address restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of kids from being deported. Although Republicans control the Upper Chamber 51-49, they’ll need a substantial number of Democratic votes to reach 60 and overcome a filibuster. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have already promised to vote against the bill.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “If this bill passes, there’ll be no incentive to negotiate, and we’ll be right back here in a month with the same problems at our feet.

“How can you negotiate with the president, who has to sign the legislation, is like a sphinx on this issue, or says one thing one day and one thing the next?” Schumer said, according to the news guild.

“Democratic senators’ fixation on illegal immigration has already blocked us from making progress on long-term spending talks,” countered majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “That same fixation has them threatening to filibuster funding for the government.”

“If there’s a government shutdown — and let’s hope there’s not — it’d be the Democrats shutting it down,” added Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), according to the AP.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he’s likely to vote for approval despite his reservations about the stopgap bill.

“The agreement is far from perfect, as I believe Congress should end short-term funding patches, improve the financial integrity of CHIP and repeal the medical device tax in its entirety,” Toomey said, the newswire reported.

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