Those who are following the medical device tax repeal story might also be buried in the weeds of the budget sequester, the continuing resolution and so on, and not without reason. After all, the resolution of these issues has a lot to do with how Medicare spending unfolds over the next seven months and beyond.
Much of the current hope for a repeal of the device tax seems to revolve around tax reform, so the question at this point is what will the tax reform discussion look like and whether it is viable as a vehicle for the device tax repeal. At the risk of seeming habitually pessimistic about the device tax repeal, the problem with the tax code overhaul as a vehicle for the repeal is that the two sides in this debate are approaching tax reform from what appears to be diametrically opposing points of view.
The Obama administration has made it clear since before the election of 2012 that an increase in tax revenues is its preferred means for dealing with the deficit. Reduced spending has not been the approach taken by President Obama, who has indicated that he will not settle for just an increase in rates, that he also wants to close out some tax loopholes as well.
Tax reform as House Republicans will propose it will likely consist of some closure of loopholes along with some lowering of rates, a sharp contrast to the President’s approach, which will be to attempt to bolster government revenues by leaving rates where they are – after all, he got what he wanted in terms of rates in the tax fight ending in January – and by closing loopholes.
Those who see room for compromise might cite Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), who indicated in a March 3 interview on This Week that she and Senate Republicans might be on board with tax reform that boosts revenues for Uncle Sam, but that’s not where House Speaker John Boehner is.
Boehner is in the driver’s seat where a Republican tax reform proposal is concerned, and it’s not that it doesn’t matter what Ayotte thinks. It’s just that it matters much more what Boehner thinks. Boehner said on Meet the Press, “the President got his tax hikes,” adding “the issue here is spending.”
There is little reason to think tax reform will be taken up in a serious fashion before the congressional recess in August simply because as soon as Congress gets past the continuing resolution/budget sequester issue, the matter of fiscal 2014 spending will surface. There are a scant seven months to come to terms with FY 2014, which means most if not all other issues of a fiscal nature will receive very little attention in the meantime.