A Deal That K Street Would Love

Walter Russell Mead notes that “one possible ACA-related compromise continues to get play in the media: the repeal of the medical device tax”:

As the shutdown as dragged on, a repeal emerged as both something that the GOP could claim as a victory as well as something that the Democrats could live with. And although the debt limit conversation is now shifting away from Obamacare toward other deals, the industry is still pushing hard for repeal.

Cohn pulls back the curtain on the lobbying effort to get the tax repealed:

[R]epealing the device tax would look like a favor to a special interest. And, notwithstanding arguments for or against the tax, appearances in this case are probably correct.

It’s highly unlikely that Senate bill got 72 votes because so many lawmakers, including about half the Democratic caucus, are worked up about the device tax on principle. No, the most likely explanation is that the device industry has a ton of influence, particularly in states where they have large operations. Among those who have endorsed repeal (though not explicitly as part of a debt ceiling or shutdown negotiation) are two liberal icons in the Senate, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren. Both say they oppose the tax on the merits. Both also represent states with influential device makers. Medtronic, the nation’s fourth largest device maker, is in Minneapolis. Boston Scientific and Coviden, the eighth and ninth largest, have U.S. headquarters in Massachusetts. My colleague Alec MacGillis wrote about Warren and the device industry a year ago—it’s worth a read if you want to understand what’s going on behind the scenes in Congress right now. Or you can just consider the fact that senator-turned-lobbyist Evan Bayh has adopted device tax repeal as one of his causes. That’s usually a pretty good clue about how much special interest money is behind a campaign.