Senate GOP Sneaks Anti-Obamacare Provisions Into Tax Bill

Republicans are adding repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the latest version of their tax bill, according to several GOP senators, with several key swing votes saying they’re open to the idea.

Finance Committee Republicans decided to include repeal language in the package. The legislation was discussed at a closed-door party lunch meeting Tuesday and several Republican senators said no one spoke out publicly against repealing the mandate.

John Thune (R-S.D.) said adding mandate repeal could allow Republicans to include more middle-class tax relief in the tax bill, and that he was confident it could pass the Senate. The GOP views repealing the mandate as both a down payment on its campaign pledge to undo Obamacare and a source of revenue: Repeal would generate $338 billion to help pay for tax reform.

“It’s been whipped,” said Thune, a member of GOP leadership, adding it’s an idea that “we’ve been looking at for some time as a potential solution for some of the challenges that we’re facing in trying to make the bill do the things we’re trying to accomplish.”

President Donald Trump has been urging congressional Republicans to include mandate repeal in the tax package.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are "optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful” to enacting tax reform but did not confirm it would be in the final plan.

John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of three GOP senators who voted down the Obamacare repeal effort this summer, said repealing the mandate is not a deal-breaker for securing his vote.

“I want to see the whole package — it keeps changing as it goes through the House and Senate,” McCain said. “I want the regular order.”

Repealing the requirement most Americans have insurance would have an effect on the health insurance markets, although not as big of one as health economists once predicted. The CBO said this week that repeal would result in 4 million people losing their health insurance in the first year and 13 million in a decade.