The Heinrich Maneuver

NM Democratic Senate candidate flip-flopped on unpopular Obamacare provision

• June 20, 2012 5:00 am


Democratic congressman and New Mexico Senate candidate Martin Heinrich voted in favor of a controversial provision of Obamacare—even though he previously wrote a letter to U.S. House leadership condemning the provision as a job killer and a burden to middle-class families in his home state.

On June 7, Congressman Heinrich sided with the majority of his party and voted against repealing the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers that could take effect next year under Obamacare.

The GOP-controlled House voted to repeal the tax by a margin of 270-146. Thirty-seven Democrats joined 233 Republicans in supporting the repeal, which now awaits approval by Democrat-controlled Senate, where it has "no hope of consideration," according to the Washington Post.

The medical device tax could cost 43,000 jobs, double the tax bills of medical device companies, and encourage the companies to move their plants out of the country, according to a study commissioned by the medical device industry’s largest trade group, AdvaMed.

"The medical device tax was purely included as a pay-for. Clearly there’s no solid policy reason for it. We’ve always thought it was bad policy," AdvaMed spokeswoman Wanda Moebius told the Free Beacon.

"In order to pay for this tax, they’re going to have to cut jobs," Moebius said. "This is not sound policy, and we’ve said that all along."

Heinrich’s home state of New Mexico is home to about 300 medical device companies. U.S. medical device manufacturers employ more than 400,000 workers in total, according to the Associated Press

"This is just more evidence that Mark Heinrich can’t be trusted to stand up for jobs if it comes into conflict with his extremist agenda," Chris Sanchez, communications director for the campaign of Heinrich’s Republican opponent Heather Wilson, told the Free Beacon.

Heinrich has previously acknowledged the downside of the medical device tax: In a letter to House leadership, dated February 5, 2010, he condemned the medical device tax and pointing out the negative consequences it would spell for the New Mexico economy.

"I am concerned that the excise tax included in the legislation would impede innovation, limit access to life-saving medical technology, and lead to job losses in the medical device industry," Heinrich wrote.

"I am particularly concerned about the impact this tax would have on a facility in my district that manufactures surgical equipment. The facility, which employs more than 650 New Mexicans, competes directly with two plants in Juarez, Mexico. The additional burden of an arbitrary excise tax would hamper its ability to compete and could threaten these well-paying jobs," Heinrich wrote.

"Health insurance reform should not run counter" to job-creation efforts, according to Heinrich’s letter.

Heinrich also acknowledged that the tax would negatively impact middle-class families in his home state.

"For New Mexico’s working families that have forgone salary increases in exchange for strong insurance benefits, the cost thresholds for taxation are simply too low. As health insurance costs continue to increase at a rate greater than inflation, more and more middle-income New Mexicans would be forced to pay this tax," Heinrich wrote.

"I think liberal interests in Washington might be at work here," Sanchez said. "Henrich’s vote might be good for his Washington special interests but not for the families of New Mexico."

Heinrich is not the only Democrat to find fault with the medical device tax or to be accused of hypocrisy on the issue: Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote an op-ed for the Massachusetts Medical Devices Journal in April supporting repeal of the medical device tax.

"The medical device tax is a costly and job-killing proposal, but so are the other 18 taxes in the federal health care bill. Professor Warren needs to tell us why she continues to defend these other tax hikes," said Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign manager Jim Barnett at the time of Warren’s letter.

Massachusetts is home to more than 400 medical device companies.

The medical device tax is not the only issue on which Heinrich has changed his position. He has also changed his positions on gay marriage and offshore drilling, according to reports.

A local television news program quoted Heinrich’s congressional opponent’s campaign in 2008 accusing Heinrich of "shedding one position to take another" on the issue of offshore domestic oil drilling.

Also in 2008, Heinrich said, "I am not supportive of gay marriage."

In 2011, after announcing his Senate candidacy, Heinrich’s office told a reporter, "Martin has supported gay marriage for some time." 

The Heinrich campaign did not return a request for comment.