GOP senators whipping support for ObamaCare mandate repeal in tax bill
© Greg Nash

Republicans senators are debating adding a repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate, which fines people for not having insurance, into their tax bill as they race to finalize the proposal. 

“I can't speak for the House, but in the Senate, we're considering that. I think they're whipping it today actually, and there's a chance that might get in there,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told reporters early Wednesday evening. 

Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their tax bill — including a detailed proposal but no actual legislative text — on Thursday during a special 11:30 a.m. caucus meeting. 

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The timeline gives them less than a day to sort out the health-care fight. If they don’t, it could return at next week's Finance Committee mark up, or once the tax plan reaches the Senate floor when any senator could bring up repeal as an amendment.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAdministration works to assuage critics over ZTE deal Dem leaders request bipartisan meeting on Russia probe House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that there has been “no decision but there have been discussions” on whether to include the individual mandate repeal. 

Asked if he supports including it, the No. 2 Senate Republican — who has previously warned against making tax reform more complicated — said he wants to be able to pass a bill. 

Conservatives have been clamoring to use the tax plan to nix ObamaCare’s individual mandate after Republicans failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) separately told reporters on Wednesday that Senate Republicans were “whipping,” or measuring support within the caucus, on including the repeal provision. 

A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Wednesday found that repealing the individual mandate would save $338 billion over 10 years but would lead to 4 million more uninsured Americans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. 

President Trump has backed using the tax bill to nix the individual mandate, though the initial version of the House tax plan, unveiled last week, didn’t include the provision. 

Republicans have a narrow path to get their tax plan through the Senate. With a 52-seat majority they can only afford to lose two GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie, assuming every Democrat and independent votes "no." 

And including an individual mandate repeal could draw blowback from moderate senators. 

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsOvernight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-S.D.) noted he would support including a repeal of the individual mandate, but wouldn't demand it if it lost Republicans the support they needed to get to 51 votes. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (R-Maine) warned earlier on Wednesday that she thought linking the health-care fight to the tax bill would make it harder for Republicans to pass the tax legislation.

“It complicates the efforts to get a tax reform package through the Senate,” she said.  

—Nathaniel Weixel contributed