WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins floated her own plan Saturday to end the government shutdown but also eliminate a controversial medical device tax included in Obamacare.
Collins made the pitch on the Senate floor as the political rhetoric and finger pointing continued over who was to blame for the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.
The Maine Republican’s plan calls for repealing a 2.3 percent tax on the sale of medical equipment that is part of the Affordable Care Act as well as giving federal agencies more flexibility to implement the “sequestration” budget cuts. Those two issues would be written into a temporary spending bill that would reopen federal offices that closed Oct. 1.
“We have a lot to do to restore the public’s confidence in our ability to govern,” Collins said. “We can start by offering and voting on specific proposals such as this one. It is time that both sides come out of their partisan corners, stop fighting and start legislating in good faith.”
It was unclear whether Collins’ proposal will be given serious consideration by the bitterly divided Congress. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday evening.
Although rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol have been meeting privately to discuss a solution to the shutdown, the House Republican leadership and its Democratic counterparts in the Senate were still insisting that the other side budge from its position.
House Republicans have passed numerous proposals to fund government but attached language to defund, delay or change Obamacare. Senate Democrats have rejected every proposal – along with most individual “carve-outs” to fund certain government functions – and accused Republicans of holding the federal government hostage in order to accomplish something they couldn’t achieve at the ballot box.
A majority of the Senate has already voted to eliminate the medical device tax, but that was before the shutdown stalemate.
Attempting to win Democratic support, Collins proposed offsetting the $30 billion in losses caused by repealing the tax through a “pension smoothing” system. Collins’ office had not responded to requests for additional details of the plan.
Collins has been a vocal critic of Republicans’ attempts to link Obamacare to funding the federal government. But the Obamacare critic has also voted repeatedly with her caucus to defund, delay or change the Affordable Care Act, prompting criticism from Democrats in Maine.
Maine Sen. Angus King was in the Senate president’s chair as the presiding officer when Collins presented her plan Saturday.
A spokesman for King, Scott Ogden, said Saturday night that the senator “looks forward to reviewing Senator Collins’ proposal in greater detail, and he applauds her efforts to end the government shutdown.”
But King also hopes that House Speaker John Boehner will allow a vote on the Senate’s “clean” budget resolution, stripped of any Obamacare language.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:[email protected]