01:25 - Source: CNN
Hillary Clinton waffles on Obamacare tax

Story highlights

Clinton speaks to medical device industry leaders

They want an end to tax that helps fund Obamacare

Clinton doesn't give definitive stance on issue

Chicago CNN —  

Hillary Clinton may be creating a problem for herself.

In over a year on the paid speaking circuit, Clinton has addressed recyclers, bankers, doctors, environmentalists, a fair share of Canadians and a number of other diverse groups. Her paid speeches have one thing in common: They are regularly to corporate or trade groups that disagree with Clinton – or her former colleagues in the Obama administration – on key issues such as health care, environmental policy or taxes.

While it would be impossible for Clinton to only speak to groups that agree with her on everything, speaking to organizations that openly disagree with Democrats on certain issues has proven problematic for Clinton. The appearances open the former secretary of state up to attacks from Republicans and create situations where she appears evasive.

That was the case again Wednesday when Clinton gave the keynote luncheon talk at AdvaMed 2014, the annual conference run by the medical device industry. One of the group’s top issues is getting rid of Obamacare’s medical device tax, a cause Wanda Moebius, the group’s spokeswoman, called their “premier issue.”

Clinton, the prohibitive favorite for her Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2016, was less than committal about the issue on Wednesday, though.

She didn’t mention the tax by name during her prepared remarks and offered little indication one way or another what she would do about the issue when Stephen Ubl, the association’s president, asked her about it during a question and answer session.

“I don’t know what the right answer about the tax is,” Clinton said, “but I think we could, taking a look at everything and not standing there with out arms folding staring at each other across the partisan divide, begin to sort it out.”

Clinton seemed to play both sides of the issue, acknowledging the United States needs to look at “the pluses and the minuses” of the law, but also stating that she thinks medical device companies “have an argument to make” against the tax.

The medical device tax is a 2.3% excise tax created in part to fund Obamacare; it went into effect at the beginning of 2013. The tax, which is a large component in funding Obamacare, is unpopular with Democrats and Republicans alike, especially those with ties to the medical devices industry.

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Clinton heralded a number of Obamacare accomplishments during her speech – something she regularly does – but acknowledged that the law is adversely impacting some groups and needs to be altered.

“I am well aware there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered and changes that are going to be proposed and evaluated because clearly there is more work to be done,” Clinton said. “And your industry is bearing some of the burden alongside other stake holders.”

She later added, though, “But you are also, in my view, positioned to reap the benefits of those millions of newly insured consumers using… medical devices.”

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The response to Clinton’s speech was polite, but far from excited. There were no applause lines during the speech and some attendees left the room before she was finished.

Republicans quickly jumped on Clinton for her answer on Wednesday. They blasted the video out to reporters shortly after the event and issued a statement earlier in the day that questioned whether Clinton’s speaking at the conference puts her at odds with the Obama administration.

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This is not the first time, either, Clinton has put herself in this position. Clinton appeared before a group opposed to Obamacare in 2013 and has regularly appeared before Canadian audiences that very much support the Keystone XL pipeline.

During a handful of visits to Canada this year, the former secretary of state has refused to definitively answer questions about the 1,179-mile-long project that would move oil from Canada to refineries in the United States.

“Well, you know, I cant really talk about it because I was in the office that has primary responsibility for making the decision,” Clinton said earlier in the week during an appearance in Ottawa. “I don’t want to inject myself into what is a continuing process.”

This answer is similar to what she said during a June even in Toronto, when Clinton planted herself squarely in the middle of the issue, telling an audience that “these are people making arguments in good faith,” despite the fact that both sides “may have some facts and not others.”