Senate to Add Repeal of Obamacare Individual Mandate to Tax Bill

(Rachel del Guidice, Daily Signal) As Congress works to pass tax reform by the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that a repeal of Obamacare’s individual health care mandate would be added to the Senate version of the tax bill.

Senator Rand Paul photo

Rand Paul/photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” McConnell said Tuesday, speaking about getting the bill passed.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called repealing the individual mandate a “fantastic” way to help working families. “By itself, repealing the individual mandate is good policy and good politics. It is one of the most unpopular parts of Obamacare,” Lee said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced his opposition to the repeal, saying it would “cause millions to lose their health care, and millions more to pay higher premiums, all to pay for more tax breaks for multinationals,” according to The Washington Post.

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Conservative Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., announced their support for repealing the mandate.

Neither the House or the Senate version of Republicans’ tax reform plan had originally included repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, and the current House version still does not.

“I urge the House to include the mandate repeal in their tax legislation,” said Cotton in a statement, where he also said that “repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place.”

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker told The Daily Signal in an interview Monday that he thought House members would be favorable to adding repeal to the tax bill. “In the House, do I think it could pass? Yes,” Walker said. “From what I am hearing that we will move, a majority of our conference as well as senators, would be OK moving forward” with repeal.

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In a statement Tuesday, Walker said, “Adding the repeal of the individual mandate to tax reform could be the most consequential step this Congress takes to date in fulfilling our promises to the American people to both reform the tax code and repeal Obamacare,”

“We agree with President Donald Trump that it should be included,” he added.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told The Daily Signal in an interview Monday that the House should vote to repeal the individual mandate as part of the tax reform plan.

“It does appear that there are Democrats in the House or the Senate who … are on board with the tax reform so [for] Republicans in the House [who] already voted once to repeal the individual mandate, there’s no reason why we couldn’t get 217 votes to do that again,” Banks said.

The top tax writer in the House, Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, mentioned the possibility of the mandate repeal being part of tax reform Nov. 2.  “The president feels very strongly about including this at some step before the final process and he’s told me that twice by phone and once in person,” said Brady, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office significantly revised its estimate on how much repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare would reduce deficits in the federal budget to $338 billion between 2018 and 2027, down from the $416 billion between 2018 and 2026.

Trump has made passing tax reform a goal of his first year in office and tweeted on Monday his support for repealing the individual mandate of Obamacare as part of tax reform.

“The president’s tweet … was a clear signal from the White House that he’s fully in support of repealing the individual mandate in tax reform,” Banks said, adding:

But even leading up to his tweet, there has been a lot of momentum and discussion via House and Senate members that that’s the right thing to do and it offers a great deal more in savings to give us room to do more within tax reform, so it’s a commonsense way forward with a lot of broad support among center-right members in the House and the Senate.

Trump also said Nov. 2 that the passage of tax reform would be “a big beautiful Christmas present,” for American taxpayers.

The House Republican tax plan, released Nov. 2 by Brady, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP members condenses the current seven tax brackets to three, nearly doubles the standard deduction, and caps the amount taxpayers can write off in state taxes at $10,000.

The Senate Republican tax plan, released Nov. 8, eliminates the state and local tax deduction and keeps the current seven brackets but lower rates.

Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., said repealing the individual mandate within the tax plan would mean great relief for business people.

“I think it’s doable and I think it’s something we should do,” Yoho said in an interview with The Daily Signal, adding:

By getting rid of the individual mandate, you are going to see more people get on employer health care plans and you should see a drop of the overall cost of insurance.

Repealing the individual mandate could also advance Obamacare repeal if Congress decides to pursue it in 2018, Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, suggested in a statement to The Daily Signal.

“If the mandate is repealed as part of tax reform, then any related coverage effects will no longer be a factor the next time Congress takes up broader repeal and replace legislation,” Haislmaier said.

According to Investors Business Daily, about 8 million people faced penalties in 2016 for not complying with the Obamacare individual mandate.

According to The Intercept, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who announced she would not support a bill that partially repeals Obamacare in September, said at the time, “I have been strongly leaning no, but I wanted to have the estimate of the coverage problem confirmed by CBO before reaching a final decision.”

The Los Angeles Times also reported in September that “Collins’ announcement [on her Obamacare decision] followed the release of a preliminary CBO analysis of a bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. The office predicted ‘the number of people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events would be reduced by millions.’”

Marie Fishpaw, director of domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, said repealing the individual mandate as part of the tax reform package is overdue.

“This would provide relief to millions of Americans forced to either buy health insurance in a market broken by Obamacare’s mandates or pay tax penalties,” Fishpaw said. “While Congress still must provide broader relief from Obamacare’s costly insurance regulations, repealing the individual mandate in the tax bill would be a strong first step in the right direction.”

Republished with permission from The Daily Signal via iCopyright license