Ask House Republicans about their priorities, and they'll talk about lowering the deficit. Ask them why they hate the Affordable Care Act, and they'll say it costs too much.
All of which led to yesterday, when House Republicans voted to make the deficit larger and raise the price tag on "Obamacare."
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) complained that the ACA's price tag is "skyrocketing
." That, of course, is the exact opposite of the truth -- the cost of the law has fallen five times
in five years. But the complaint itself is ironic given how eager congressional Republicans are to make the law cost more on purpose. USA Today reported
on a little-noticed House vote yesterday:
The House on Thursday easily backed repeal of a tax on the medical device industry. But President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, which would add more than $24 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. With not all House members voting Thursday, that chamber's 280-140 vote fell one vote shy of a veto-proof majority to repeal the tax, which helps pay for the expansion of health insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
How would Republicans pay for the tax cut? They wouldn't -- the GOP plan is to just add the costs to the deficit they sometimes pretend to care about.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has identified this as one of his top priorities
for the year.
Republicans not only want to make the ACA more expensive and increase the deficit; they consider this important.
What's more, the may very well get their wish -- Roll Call reported
that there's enough Democratic support for repealing the medical device tax that, in the event of a White House veto, Congress may be able to override President Obama and scrap the tax policy.
All of this might happen without any real explanation from Republicans as to (a) why they don't even try to pay for their priorities; (b) why they want Obamacare to be more expensive; and (c) why they so routinely forget to pretend to care about the deficit.
As for how this relatively obscure policy became such an important GOP goal, the New York Times
published a good editorial
on this a couple of years ago.
Ever since Congress included a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices in President Obama's health care reform law in 2009, there has been a forceful and well-financed campaign to repeal the tax -- waged, naturally, by the medical device industry. It has donated generously to lawmakers and candidates, taken them on tours of their plants and spent tens of millions in lobbying. [...] The tax, which applies to devices like artificial joints, pacemakers, wheelchairs and gloves, is expected to raise about $29 billion over 10 years. It is one of several sources of new revenue in the health care law that will pay for the expansion of health coverage to 30 million uninsured people, many of them poor. The industry claims the tax will hurt demand for its products, but, in fact, sales of these devices, which are not purchased directly by consumers, are unlikely to be affected by price, especially by a small tax increase. As more people receive health coverage that pays for devices, the industry will more than make up the cost of the tax.
I should note in fairness that while Republican leaders have put this near the top of their to-do list, it's not entirely a partisan matter -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose state includes many medical-device companies, has endorsed the GOP line on this.