(Updates with Senate passage)
By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON, March 21 The U.S. Senate
overwhelmingly passed a largely symbolic resolution calling for
repeal of a 2.3 percent tax on medical device companies on
Thursday, as more than 30 Democrats joined Republicans in
The tax helps to fund President Barack Obama's 2010
healthcare law. It applies to a range of medical products - from
bedpans to expensive heart devices - many manufactured in the
home states of the senators backing the repeal.
The Senate voted 79-20 to call for repeal of the tax, but
the resolution is non-binding and will not change the levy. The
symbolic measure will be attached to a non-binding budget
measure drafted by Senate Democrats that is expected to pass on
Full repeal of the tax may be difficult to achieve, given
its $30 billion price tag and the opposition of key Senate
Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"The industry has a fighting chance of getting the tax
moderated or eliminated as part of a much larger tax reform
bill, where the device levy becomes a rounding error," said Paul
Heldman, a policy analyst at Potomac Research Group. "But major
tax reform in this Congress is a long shot."
Nine Senate Democrats are signed up to back the symbolic
amendment. More than a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to Reid last
year seeking to delay the tax.
Reid does not support repeal. Nor does Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who helped usher Obama's
healthcare bill into law. The medical device tax is among
several new industry levies in the healthcare overhaul law,
which aims to provide health insurance for millions of Americans
who lack it.
The law is being implemented. It was declared constitutional
by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
The medical device tax, which went into effect this year, is
projected to raise about $30 billion over a decade. That
government revenue would be lost if the tax were repealed.
Democratic Senators from Minnesota, Indiana and
Pennsylvania, where some big medical technology companies are
based, are among those who have been pushing for a repeal.
Industry officials and lawmakers against the tax say it will
hurt innovation and job creation.
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Jan Paschal and Eric Walsh)