President Donald Trump called Wednesday for repealing the Obamacare individual mandate in a tax overhaul, a day before House GOP leaders planned to unveil a bill without that provision.
In a pair of tweets, Trump said: “Wouldn’t it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class. The House and Senate should consider ASAP as the process of final approval moves along.”
The idea, proposed Sunday by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, could complicate the plans of Republicans to keep the health care and tax debates separate. Party leaders worry that reopening the politically painful Obamacare debate would cost them crucial votes on a tax bill.
“What I don’t want to do is to add things that could again kill tax reform like health care died over there,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said Tuesday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, when asked about the idea. “So I say focus on jobs and growth and leapfrogging America to the lead pack worldwide.”
A “skinny” repeal of Obamacare that scrapped the individual mandate failed in July to pass the Senate after three GOP senators defected. Scrapping the mandate’s tax penalty on most Americans who don’t purchase insurance would raise $416 billion over a decade, and increase the number of uninsured by 15 million, according to a December 2016 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to contradict the president’s stance on including individual mandate repeal in tax legislation during a press briefing Wednesday. “We’re focused on pushing through tax cuts and tax reforms, separately,” Sanders said.
“Obviously we’ve never made it a secret that we’d like to repeal and replace Obamacare,” she said, adding “We still think it’s probably more likely to do something like that in the spring.”
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune said Tuesday he doesn’t know if the upper chamber’s tax legislation would ax the Obamacare mandate. “I don’t anticipate that it will, but at this point I wouldn’t want to rule it out,” he said.
Still, the South Dakota Republican said the idea has appeal. “I’m actually somewhat interested in that, because it has significant revenue implications,” he said. “The question is: Are there 50 votes for something like that in the Senate?”
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