Senate Plans to End Obamacare Mandate in Revised Tax Proposal

Senate Plans to End Obamacare Mandate in Revised Tax Proposal
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, delivered opening remarks Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have decided to include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people have health insurance in a sprawling overhaul of the tax code, merging the fight over health care with the high-stakes effort to cut taxes.

Repealing the so-called individual mandate, as President Trump had urged, would help Republicans with the difficult math problem they face in refining their tax plan. But it also risks reigniting the contentious debate over health care that Republicans found themselves mired in for much of the year.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters.

In order to be protected from a Democratic filibuster, the tax bill can add no more than $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, and it cannot add to the deficit after a decade. Eliminating the mandate would free up more than $300 billion over a decade that could go toward tax cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Because getting rid of the mandate would lead to a decline in the number of people with health coverage, the government would spend less money on subsidized health plans.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership who also serves on the Finance Committee, said the savings from repealing the mandate would be “distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief.”

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Mr. Thune said he was confident that the tax plan, with the mandate repeal as part of it, had the necessary support to pass the Senate.

Mr. Trump had urged lawmakers to end the individual mandate, including in a Twitter post on Monday.

I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close! Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Nov. 13, 2017

Several conservative senators had also called for its repeal as part of the tax overhaul, including Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.

Mr. Paul said on Tuesday that he would seek to amend the Senate plan to repeal the mandate and “provide bigger tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers.”

“The mandate repeal is a promise we all made, and we should keep,” Mr. Paul said.

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