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Congressman Pete Roskam On The Lack Of Progress On The Repeal Of The Medical Device Tax

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HH: Joined now by Peter Roskam of Illinois’ 6th Congressional district. He’s of course the deputy majority whip in the United States House of Representatives, a member of the powerful House Ways And Means Committee. Congressman, welcome back, great to talk to you.

PR: Thanks, Hugh, thanks for having me on.

HH: Hey, I’m going to be over at the RNC tonight. They’ve got their gathering out here in L.A., and I’m going to tell them that they need to put the convention in Cleveland in 2016. Any objections on your part? Can I…

PR: No, no objections. Tampa was a swamp. I’m a Midwesterner. I’ll second your motion for Cleveland.

HH: All right, I’ll relay that. Now how about the Ways And Means Committee and the repeal of the medical device tax? Last time we talked, you thought that was a good idea. How’s it moving?

PR: Yeah, I still think it’s a good idea, and here’s the point. It’s got to be prearranged with the United States Senate so that they agree to do the repeal and the repeal alone. So to the extent that we can repeal it, and you’ve got this test vote in the U.S. Senate, that’s a very good thing. But test votes are different than commitments. And the commitment has to be that they don’t load it up with a bunch of other tax stuff, and jam the American taxpayers. If they want to do a straight repeal bill, I’m all for it, and I think the American public’s behind it. But we can’t get caught up in some Senate process with yields a bunch of hijinks and nonsense, and you get higher taxes as a result.

HH: Now I agree with that, but what’s the downside to have Erik Paulsen, who’s now got a majority who have co-sponsored the bill, passing it through Ways And Means and sending it over to the Senate? If they screw it up and they send it back, you just walk out and say we’re not signing this, this is a bad idea. But put it on their desk so that it’s waiting there, and we can start a countdown like we had a countdown to their budget?

PR: Well, the word, the only word of caution I have is that you want to make sure that it comes back and it’s clean, and it’s the real thing, and that they don’t load it up with some other class envy tax hikes and a bunch of nonsense, and the types of things we are objecting to at the end of this year, and for them to have it both ways. So you don’t want a senator who’s up in a jump ball state in the 2014 cycle to be able to say hey, I voted for that repeal bill, and I also voted to raise some other tax. So I think it’s got to be, you’ve got to have a level of commitment that it’s going to be a clean bill and no nonsense.

HH: Now Congressman, I believe in regular order, and so you’re kind of departing from regular order there, where the House would have a commitment before it goes over. Why not just send it to them? If they send back a bad bill, you don’t pass it. If they try the jump ball, if it’s Mark Pryor who said I voted for it, then it’s up to whoever, Tom Cotton or whoever is running against him, to call him out on it. But why not just trust the people to understand we really want to repeal it, and the Senate probably does, but they might not. Why not just do your guys’ job, and leave it for them to screw up or pass it back?

PR: Well, I think that our guys’ job is to go through regular order, and that is to pass it out of the House. But Hugh, the idea of just giving them a vehicle that you don’t know what’s going to come back, with something that is, that we’re against, why give them that foil and give them that opportunity? So this is such a tenterhooks time when you’ve got a president of the United States that is redefining tax reform, and he’s claiming he wants to close loopholes. But to close those loopholes, instead of using that to pay for tax reform, which is the common understanding that you and I have, instead, he wants to use those to fuel more government spending. So I think we’ve got to be, go ahead.

HH: I’m not buying that. I’m sitting here thinking I helped elect Republicans in the House so that they’d get the majority and they’d do what Republicans ought to do, in this case, repeal the medical device tax. You’re playing a deeper game, but I think our people listen to that, and they say forget that stuff. You guys do your job, and we’ll worry about the Senate. Your job is to repeal taxes. And if they send back crap, you don’t pass it. But at least put them on notice, because it sounds to me like an elaborate way of saying, Congressman, maybe I’m wrong, you’re not going to do it.

PR: No, I’m not saying that. It’s not elaborate. And the other thing is, think about, I mean, if that argument were to hold water, Hugh, all the things that have been passed that landed as a thud into the U.S. Senate for the past three and four years would now have moved, and the process would be very different. So I’m not playing a deeper game, but it’s a game that’s a recognition of what this Senate under Harry Reid is all about. Look, these guys for four years were able to avoid passing a bill that was a budget. And the only way they got to do it, or the only way that they were forced to do it was because of House Republicans that said we’re going to pass no budget, no pay, and we took the option off the table for them. So I think we’ve got to be very sophisticated in how we’re approaching this. We’re dealing with the most partisan president in our lifetimes. There’s not anything that these guys do that isn’t partisan. And they play zero sum game politics. And in light of that, I think we’ve got to be pretty sophisticated in our thinking.

HH: Oh, I agree with that.

PR: So it’s not just getting it repealed…

HH: The big difference…

PR: …but to send it over there and just let them come back, I think, is not the smartest move.

HH: No, the big difference from what happened last year is that they have the test vote 79-20. I really think this is a huge mistake, Congressman, waiting for them to do a deal with you. I think it’s a huge, enormous mistake, but I appreciate you coming on and talking with me about it. Congressman Pete Roskam from Illinois, it sounds like business as usual in the House, and that’s not good, America.

End of interview.


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