Congressman wants to tie repealing medical device tax to ending shutdown

Last updated: October 08. 2013 11:24PM - 4101 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

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Don’t count U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta among the small group of Republicans that would vote for a no-strings attached funding plan to end the government shutdown.

The Hazleton Republican on Tuesday said he’s changed his mind and is now throwing his support behind a continuing resolution tied to the repeal of the medical device tax provision in Obamacare.

When asked as recently as Monday afternoon on whether the congressman would vote for what’s called a clean continuing resolution, Barletta’s spokesman Tim Murtaugh said he would. But sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, things changed.

“The whole process is a series of moving targets, and negotiations change hourly,” Murtaugh said.

He noted “a growing number of Democrats emerged that would support repeal of the medical device tax.” That momentum has led to Barletta hitching his cart to that horse and seeing if it can pass the House and the Senate and end the shutdown while also repealing another part of the unpopular with the GOP Obamacare.

“I’m a former mayor, so I’m looking for solutions to problems. Sometimes being in Congress means practicing the art of the possible. We can keep the government open and dismantle a major funding source of Obamacare,” Barletta said. “We’ll get rid of an Obamacare tax that kills jobs, raises costs of important medical equipment and best of all can pass the House and Senate.”

The switch in support came right around the same time U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, sent a letter to House Majority Leader John Boehner urging for a vote in that chamber on a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government. In the letter he noted, “the majority of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, including five Republican members of the House of Representatives, is publicly supportive.”

Barletta was included as one of those five.

Murtaugh said Barletta does not believe any no-strings-attached funding bills would come up for a vote in the House. If one were to, he doubts the votes are there to pass it.

But as more Democrats, whom Murtaugh called “brave,” have come out in support of the tax repeal plan, Barletta has become increasing confident that that’s the best course of action.

And while plenty of Democrats have publicly said they agree the medical device tax should be repealed, including Casey, the senator said tying it to the government funding plan is not the way to go about it.

In related news out of Washington on Tuesday, Barletta called for a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget as a trade-off for raising the nation’s debt limit as requested by President Obama. Barletta made his proposal during a meeting of the House of Representatives Republican conference.

“This is a country that spends $1 trillion more each year than it takes in,” Barletta said. “If we’re talking about raising our credit limit, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we require our government to balance its checkbook.”

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