Congressman Erik Paulsen On The Lack Of Progress On Medical Device Tax Reform
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HH: Joined now by Congressman Erik Paulsen from Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional district. Congressman, welcome back, always a pleasure to speak with you.
EP: It’s good to be with you again today.
HH: Congratulations. I got your press release earlier in the week, which is titled “Paulsen Bill To Repeal Medical Device Tax Gains Critical 218th Co-Sponsor.” Legislation now has enough support to pass the U.S. House, time for Senate action. That’s terrific. Congratulations. When will your bill get a hearing in the Ways And Means Committee and passed by the Committee to the House floor?
EP: Well, here’s the deal. Really good news, we hit the 218 mark. It’s the halfway point. We’ve got enough votes to pass the bill. Actually, I added about another ten authors just today that will added onto the bill next week, Hugh. So here’s what we’re going through right now. My chairman, Chairman Camp, of course, we’re strategically working with the leadership on what the best course of action is. The Senate, since I think we last spoke, just passed this symbolic vote of 79-20 also wanting to do the repeal. But we’ve got a Senate leader, Senator Reid, who is very hostile to this measure. He didn’t vote for the repeal. Senator Baucus, the Finance chair, didn’t vote for the repeal. And I think leadership, and Chairman Camp, are rightfully saying well, we don’t want to send a revenue bill even though it’s the right political thing to do, the right policy thing to do, it makes sense, over to the Senate and have them, have some mischief – change the bill and you know, alter revenue in some other way and do something that’s hostile to our intentions. So I think we’re going to try and see if we can work out some agreements with some of those 79 senators. That’s what we need to do.
HH: Congressman Paulsen, with all due respect, I will never give another dime to a Republican if you guys sit on this bill and do not pass it out. I will actively support primarying people who do not move this bill. I think that is, Pete Roskam came on the program yesterday and told me that, and I have been fuming since then. That is not the regular order of the House that we were promised. We were promised that a GOP majority would pass good laws and send them to the Senate. We were not promised back room negotiations with obstructionist Democratic senators. I am fuming that you guys will not pass this bill.
EP: Well listen, Hugh, we are going to pass it. And believe me, I, as a member, am pressuring my leadership to bring it up. That’s why the 218th vote is so important. When we had that halfway point, I sent out that press release and presented it to leadership. I’m going to keep pushing. I want to make sure that we do the right thing.
HH: But Congressman, with all due respect, with all due respect, we are the leadership. The people who elect you are the leadership. I don’t care what David Camp thinks. You have 218 co-sponsors. I don’t care if Eric Cantor and John Boehner say no. You ought to be screaming at your conference that there are people who are losing their jobs and companies that are closing because of this tax, and they’re screwing around, because David Drucker at Roll Call says your chairman doesn’t want to do this because it endangers his unicorns dancing on the Moon vision of tax reform.
EP: Well, I understand that, but I will, and I know, like 10,000 layoffs have happened. I talk to these employers all the time, and I can give you quote after quote after quote. I think we should bring it up. I am pushing hard for that, and I will tell you that regular order is a big part of that process. As a rank and file member, and a member of the Ways And Means Committee, nearly all the members of the Ways And Means Committee on my side of the aisle have signed this bill. So we’re all on the same page. And we’re pushing. So I’m with you on that line.
HH: Then why doesn’t the conference remove Dave Camp as the chairman if he will not do the will of the conference?
EP: Well, I would say this, though. I would say part of our tactics and part of our strategy is it’s just like when we were going through the budget. To pass a balanced budget, we had a differentiation of opinion, and actually, that worked pretty well. The sequester hasn’t made the country fall apart. We’ve got some budget cuts, we passed a budget that balances. We’re looking at doing some of the similar policies on some of these tax revisions to make sure they actually happen, because you know, you’ve got a president who is very hostile, and the Senate leader is very hostile. And we want to see it happen. And I understand the impact. It’s real. I’m speaking at a medical device group next Monday, and momentum. It’s all about momentum. I want to keep the momentum to make this actually happen.
HH: It is all about momentum. The Senate passed it two weeks ago. Are the staffers on Ways And Means dumb? Are they completely politically idiotic that they don’t realize people are paying attention to this, and that if you send it right back, Mitch McConnell asked for you guys to send it right back. What in the world are they telling you about obstructing a bill that everybody wants to pass, which would save jobs? What do they say to you?
EP: Well, they give you the line, just as I mentioned before, and you know, that’s again, that’s above my pay grade. So I’m not going to go down the line here, but I will say this, is that I think the House, based on our action last year, and our momentum this year, we’ve shamed the Senate into that vote.
HH: No, actually, what’s happening is I’m shaming Republicans. Nothing is above your pay grade, Congressman. You’re represented by the people of your district, and you told me you have 200 companies in your district…
EP: That’s right.
HH: You ought to be doing a Bobby Knight. You ought to be throwing chairs in the conference. And people ought to be calling out Dave Camp for being an obstructionist, because that’s what he is. He’s killing jobs.
EP: Well, it’s not, understand, though, also, I mean, my chairman is not killing jobs. And I understand this is important for 400,000 Americans who are employed in this industry to work towards the repeal of this tax. I understand that, and I have said since this thing was first implemented and proposed, bad idea, bad policy, it makes no sense, and we’ve built ourselves up to a crescendo where we’ve got a chance to actually make it happen, despite the President’s opposition and the Senate leaders’ opposition. We will do it in the House. I mean…
EP: I can’t give you the exact timing. I’ve pushed. Believe me. When we hit the 218th mark, I brought it forward. And the majority leader himself, who speaks about this issue on a very regular basis, Eric Cantor speaks about it.
HH: Oh, speaks about it. Pause again, I’m interrupting.
EP: He cares.
HH: I don’t mean to be rude, Congressman, because you’re one of the good guys. But I’ve had it with this stuff. All they do is talk. The House Republicans, if talk were money, we wouldn’t have a deficit, because you guys talk all the time. Here, you have a chance to do, and your chairman won’t move it. And don’t we lose jobs every week because of this medical device tax?
EP: I would argue that yes, we are losing jobs, and we are losing investment in an industry, and those are moving overseas. So I think that’s true.
HH: So every week that he delays a vote, he kills jobs. That is like A is followed by B, and C follows B. And so if he is blocking a vote on this, and he is, then he is killing jobs. That means a Republican leadership that allows him to do so is killing jobs. And I can’t believe that your constituents, and everyone in the United States, and you shouldn’t catch the grief for this, because you’re trying to get it done. But at least be blunt. Tell the people who are listening you want this to come to a vote immediately.
EP: Oh, believe me, Hugh, I do want it to come to a vote, and I am being as diplomatic as I can with my colleagues. I want to see it happen. I would like to see a lot of things happening. And just because we pass it, it doesn’t guarantee, I mean, we can put pressure on the Senate, you’re right, but it doesn’t guarantee that it stops right away, because again, the President has been openly hostile to this as well. And I don’t mind putting him in the box, making him the bad guys, because that’s what he should be passing, Obamacare. And so we’re tactically trying to do that.
HH: Put him in a box? You guys are giving him a passport to go see the world. You’re not putting him in a box. Well, you know all this. I’m just saying…
EP: I know.
HH: If your conference, when do you next meet in a conference?
EP: We’ll meet next week on Tuesday morning.
HH: Well, do you stand up in there and say I’m getting killed here? We’ve got 218 votes, and our committee is making us look like morons? Do you ever say anything like that?
EP: Well, I’ve brought it up in conference, but not in that language, but yes.
HH: Well, I sure hope you do, Congressman, because you have a winner here, and it will save jobs. And I’m not mad at you, but I, when I read the Drucker piece, I just hope that the message goes forth. People are done with this House. I mean, your leadership is killing us, and it’s going to lose the majority, and they’re killing jobs.
EP: Well listen, I know the last time I was on the show, you had guests on there that live this every day, that believe in it every day, and they know that’s the case, too. So I’m with you as well.
HH: Well, good luck to you, and I hope you get a conference that gets behind you next week, because the people whose jobs are on the line deserve Republicans who actually do what they say, not just say what they say. Congressman Erik Paulsen from Minnesota, thank you.
End of interview.