Senate Leaders Signal Willingness To Stick O’Care Mandate Repeal In Tax Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, announces to reporters that the Senate is moving ahead on a Republican budget plan, a critical step in President Donald Trump and the party's politically imperative drive to cut taxes and simplify the IRS code, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

On Tuesday, after weeks of agitation from President Trump and hard-right lawmakers, Senate GOP leadership signaled for the first time that it is amenable to inserting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate into their tax overhaul bill.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful, and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters, indicating that the policy could be inserted during the committee markup process as early as this week.

The office of Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership team, confirmed to TPM that the final Senate tax bill would include the mandate’s repeal.

Yet rank-and-file lawmakers said a final decision has not yet been reached, and cited concerns that mixing health policy into an already controversial tax reform process would lose the votes Republicans need to pass the bill.

Adding to the confusion, minutes after McConnell’s declaration, the Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee marking up the tax bill refused to acknowledge the news.

“No one needs to be talking about the individual mandate at this point,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in the hearing, adding that he thought discussion of the policy was a “distraction” and “a waste of time.”

In the hallways of the Senate on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers told TPM that the estimated $300 billion in savings the mandate’s repeal would generate has become too enticing a prospect to pass up—savings created because an estimated 13 million people would lose their health insurance and no longer get government subsidies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.
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