"Senators have started to see that medical device tax was put in, I would say, somewhat suddenly in that bill, and was set at a level that people hadn't determined the effect it would have," Klobuchar told reporters on Capitol Hill late last week. "That there are a lot of people who have now seen that it should either be repealed or reduced. That vote was support for that position, and we now need to move on to negotiate it as some kind of a budget deal."
Klobuchar, the leading Democratic proponent of repealing what she calls a "hefty tax," concedes that repeal would "clearly need an offset" and would likely have to be a part of a broader package -- such as a budget deal, tax reform or separate health care legislation.
Opponents of repeal contend that the excise tax's impacts on employment or manufacturing will be minimal, that the device industry was not singled out by the law's cuts, and that the lost revenue would damage implementation of health care reform. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) voted against repealing the tax, which means it won't be an easy task to bring it to the floor.
Klobuchar isn't fazed.
"There's always a chance of winning peoples' votes when they start talking about what it means in their states, and as long as we can find some offset. I think that is Senator Baucus' concern," she said. "But we've come a long way from people just thinking it didn't make that much of a difference to people understanding that it involves surgical gloves and all kinds of things. It's a pretty hefty tax, especially for small companies."
Despite the wishes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House leaders aren't eager to pass a standalone device tax repeal and and it to the Senate. House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp's (R-MI) office told Roll Call after the Senate vote that he would like to see the device tax repealed as part of tax reform, the prospects for which are slim.