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Coats Column: Bipartisan Proposals to Kick Start "Year of Action"


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President Obama proclaimed that he wants to make 2014 "a year of action" during his recent State of the Union Address.

Coming off one of the most unproductive and politically divisive years in congressional history, I am receptive to his call for Washington to accomplish more this year.

Back home, I frequently hear from Hoosiers who are deeply frustrated with the lack of constructive progress on Capitol Hill. I am told regularly that Washington's dysfunction should be no excuse for inaction.

Despite a deeply divided government, two major bipartisan solutions exist that could create new jobs, help working families and kick start the president's desire for action. All they need is his support.

One bipartisan idea awaiting approval from President Obama is a full repeal of the tax on medical devices included in Obamacare. Seventy-nine senators support eliminating this damaging tax, and the House of Representatives already passed legislation to repeal it.

Since its implementation, the harmful tax on medical devices has caused companies to lay off American workers and shelve plans to expand and build new manufacturing plants. With over 300 FDA-registered medical device manufacturers in Indiana, this tax hits our state especially hard.

Medical device companies directly employ over 20,000 Hoosiers and the medical device industry indirectly supports thousands of additional Hoosier jobs.

However, this tax is not just costing jobs in Indiana and across the country. It is limiting research and development of life-enhancing and life-saving devices, such as artificial knees and catheters used in heart procedures, that help people overcome significant health challenges.

The tax is particularly unfair because it is assessed on the gross sales of companies, not their net profits. As a result, it is especially harmful to companies that are not yet profitable and may be struggling to launch a new innovation to save and improve lives.

To preserve jobs and maintain the development of these valuable devices, President Obama should join with a bipartisan majority in Congress to repeal this tax.

Another job-creating move the president immediately can take is to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.

The $5.3 billion, privately-funded pipeline is the largest, ready-to-build infrastructure project in the United States and is supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress. Last year, the Senate voted 62-37 to support the project.

This project, which will enhance American energy independence and create jobs, has been sitting on the president's desk awaiting his signature for five years.

The complete route of the pipeline will run from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. It would transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.

Last month the State Department issued a report reaffirming prior studies that concluded the Keystone pipeline does not present any significant environmental risks. This report also predicts the pipeline's construction would support 40,000 jobs.

Given the findings of this report, there is absolutely no reason for President Obama to slow-walk this project any longer. By authorizing the final leg of the Keystone project, the president can allow all Americans to benefit from the pipeline's job opportunities and increased access to energy.

Taking action on these two items -- repealing the medical device tax and authorizing the Keystone pipeline -- will not guarantee that this year is different than 2013.

But through these small steps, the president can help American families and show that he is serious about changing the tone to make 2014 a productive year in Washington.

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