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.