Editorial: Tax vote was typical for Tierney
06/13/2012 3:34 AM
Congressman John Tierney missed an opportunity last week to help shed his image as a classic Democratic tax-and-spender.
The occasion was a House vote on repeal of the 2.3-percent tax imposed on the manufacturers of medical devices. This industry, which is a major employer here in the Bay State, was singled out by the Obama Administration and the Democratic majority in Congress to help fund their controversial health-care initiative approved in 2010.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law’s constitutionality sometime this month. But there was a growing consensus within both parties that regardless of the outcome of the court challenge, the medical devices tax was unfair.
Last week’s vote was 270-146 in favor of repeal, with 37 Democrats — including the 5th District’s Niki Tsongas and William Keating, who represents the Cape and the islands — voting with the Republican majority. Tierney was not one of them, stating, “While I support our medical device manufacturers, this particular bill hurts regular, middle-class Americans by eliminating affordable health insurance for hundreds of thousands of families.” His office estimates the cost of repeal at $29 billion over 10 years, and noted that manufacturers had agreed to the 2.3-percent figure during negotiations over the initiative’s funding.
But in a statement earlier this year, Tom Sommer, president of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMEDIC) noted, “We warned two years ago that medical device companies would be forced to deal with this tax by preparing for job cuts and reductions in R&D spending. The U.S. leads the world in developing and manufacturing medical products, it doesn’t make sense that on one hand the government is promoting exports and manufacturing jobs, while on the other hand it is implementing policies that will cut jobs in this sector and harm its competitive advantage.”
Tierney’s vote was particularly unfortunate given the presence of several major medical device manufacturers in his 6th District, which includes North Andover. It seems he’s willing to shed his concerns about excessive defense spending in order to support manufacturing activity at the General Electric plant in Democrat-friendly Lynn, but is not so concerned about the thousands of good jobs at risk elsewhere in this key sector of the region’s economy.
Tierney’s disappointing vote on the medical device tax is, as with so many of his other actions, subservient to his party’s ideology rather than the interests of the people he represents.