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McConnell: Delay Individual Mandate To Revive Unemployment Benefits

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AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster

"I'm sure that many on my side who would like to see these additional weeks of benefits extended, if like the Speaker of the House indicated he supported we could find a way to extend them without actually adding to the national debt," he said on the Senate floor. "So to that end, I'd like to propose that we be allowed -- my side be allowed to offer an amendment to pay for these benefits by lifting the burden of Obamacare's individual mandate for one year and take care of our veterans who were harmed by the recently agreed to budget deal while we are at it in the same amendment."

His remarks came just ahead of a procedural vote, requiring 60 senators, to break a filibuster and advance legislation to revive unemployment benefits for three months. The benefits lapsed on Dec. 28 for some 1.3 million Americans looking for work.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last September that delaying the mandate for a year would reduce the deficit by $35 billion, with most of the savings coming from fewer Medicaid outlays and fewer premium tax credits provided to enrollees on the exchanges. It would also raise insurance premiums, CBO said, as it would result in a sicker coverage pool.

An individual mandate delay, which Republicans have repeatedly attempted and failed, is a nonstarter for Democrats as it would substantially disrupt Obamacare, especially now that many are signed up and insurance premiums are set in accordance with the mandate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) shot down McConnell's request.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

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