By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, R-IN Second District, was the featured speaker at a special Goshen Chamber of Commerce luncheon held Thursday afternoon at Maplecrest Country Club.
During the luncheon, Walorski provided attendees with a federal legislation update from Congress. Among the main topics touched on during the talk were issues with the Affordable C-are Act, balancing the budget, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Immigration reform.
Of the many issues currently on her radar, Walorski said the Affordable Care Act is probably number one, and more specifically the medical device tax included within the health care act language.
“One of the onerous parts of the taxes that are in the Affordable Healthcare Act that we are actively working on repealing is this medical device tax,” Walorski said. “Our state obviously is hit harder than really any other state in the country, and our region here in the Second District bears the brunt of that, as we not only have commuters in every one of our counties up here in and out of Kosciusko County, but many of you in this room, and many companies all over the second district are also contract producers of small parts that go into larger parts.”
In digging deeper into the possible consequences of the medical device tax, Walorski pointed to the fact that the tax is what she called a “compound comprehensive tax”.
“So it’s 2.3 percent times every hand it passes through, so by the time it gets into your knee or hip, it’s 8 or 10 percent cumulatively,” Walorski said of the tax. “So my phone started ringing about the third week of January from CEO’s of local hospitals saying, ‘You’re kidding me. I can’t believe this is where we’re at.’ The good news is, on the House side, we have probably voted at least twice to repeal that tax this session, including in the budget we passed a couple weeks ago. The better news is, on the Senate side, they are getting so much pressure as well from the American people. This is a grassroots American reaction to a very onerous tax that’s hurting jobs in districts wherever orthopedic pieces are made.”
Looking forward, Walorski said she is excited to see what happens with the health care debate this summer due to what she described as an unusual “openness” and spirit of bipartisanship being shown right now among the members of Congress.
“There is an openness in this summer moment that we have to do a couple of things,” Walorski said. “One is I think obviously the wheels are starting to come off of the Affordable Healthcare bus, and so there has been some push on the administration side to start talking about them wanting a delay. I can tell you on the House side one of the priorities we have as a House is to repeal the medical device tax. I think if we ever have a moment to get that done, it will be this summer, because everybody is at the table.”
In discussing the budget, Walorski noted that the Republican House, the Senate and the president all have budgets they would like to see passed. However, while having so many options may have been seen as a negative in previous sessions, Walorski said she sees the multiple budgets as a chance for the American public to decide the path they would most like to see for the country.
“The Republican House passed a budget a couple of weeks ago that balances in 10 years, repeals the Affordable Health Care Act and the taxes that are in it, and has some tax reform in it,” Walorski said. “The Senate has produced a budget. The president has produced a budget. I think it’s a good thing that we have three budgets out there, and the reason is because whenever you can hold fact up to the American people in a very transparent way that this is what it is, and every entity is represented... it’s a good thing for the American people to have that information. There is a variety of opinions of what people believe, so I think it’s another moment where American’s have a chance to make a decision on which way they want this economy to move. I think it’s a step in the right direction. “
Once again referencing the party openness she experienced when dealing with the healthcare issue, Walorski said she is fairly confident a finalized budget will be within reach by the end of the summer.
“I think there is a willingness and an openness to come up with some kind of budget answer before the debt ceiling comes down,” Walorski said, “which is probably going to come down in late summer or early fall.”
Moving beyond healthcare and the budget, Walorski also took a brief moment to touch on yet another contentious issue facing the American public today: the Keystone XL Pipeline, a proposed $5 to $7 billion extension of the existing Keystone Pipeline which transports tar sands oil from Canada and the northern United States primarily to the Midwest refining markets.
“That is an issue that grassroots America has taken on, and I think it’s almost iconic that Americans understand in a nonpartisan way that most of us want domestic oil production in this country,” Walorski said. “Most of us agree that we’ve got to stop being penned in and only buying oil from people that want to destroy us. There’s an openness on both sides to talk about coming up with something like the Keystone pipeline. I think part of it is that at this point Keystone represents to a lot of people in this country a freedom in our own country to develop and to continue to move into domestic production.”
Closing out Walorski’s main topics of discussion Thursday was immigration reform, which she said appears to be gaining traction on both sides of the isle in a way that could mean passage of an actual bill by perhaps the end of this summer.
“The fourth issue that I think we can expect movement on and I think there will be movement on is the immigration bill, because there’s an openness,” Walorski said. “I think most elected officials will agree that if there’s ever going to be an immigration bill, it will be this summer. The voices are there, and there’s an openness this summer to have a conversation and to actually have a bill.”