Initial Senate tax bill does not repeal ObamaCare mandate

Initial Senate tax bill does not repeal ObamaCare mandate
© Greg Nash

The tax-reform bill that Senate Republicans are releasing Thursday does not repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate, though the provision could be added down the line, GOP senators said. 

Senators leaving a briefing about the legislation said repealing the mandate is not in the initial text of the legislation, but cautioned that the issue is still under discussion. 

"There's been a lot of discussion on that and we're looking at it very seriously," Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP senators want NAFTA deal from Trump by Labor Day Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP lawmakers want Trump to stop bashing Congress MORE (R-N.D.) said, adding that the issue was discussed at Thursday's meeting.

Hoeven said he personally supports repeal of the mandate. 

An updated House tax-reform bill unveiled Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money: Trump imposes B in tariffs on China | China blasts 'fickle' Trump, promises payback | Trump to name consumer bureau director next week Trump announces tariffs on billion in Chinese goods Congress faces rising pressure to fix tax law MORE (R-Texas) also does not repeal the mandate. 

Senate Republican leaders have been doing a whip count on repealing the ObamaCare penalty to see where support stands. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril Trump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Amendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said lawmakers are taking a "hard look" at the issue.

Proponents of nixing the mandate say it is a way to save money that could help pay for tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says mandate repeal would save $338 billion over 10 years. 

But moderates like Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril Romney backs Laura Bush on border: 'We need a more compassionate answer' Amnesty International rips family separation policy: 'This is nothing short of torture' MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' GOP senator calls on Trump to end 'cruel' family separation policy MORE (R-Alaska) have expressed reluctance to repeal the mandate. Introducing the volatile issue of health care into the tax debate could made it harder to pass the bill.

Still, many Republican senators say they want the change. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' Cruz announces bill to end separation of immigrant families The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Furor grows over child separation policy MORE (R-Texas) pushed for the idea when leaving the meeting on Thursday.

Cruz did not say how he would vote on the current bill, saying discussions are "ongoing."

Repealing the mandate would result in 13 million more uninsured people over 10 years, according to the CBO, and could destabilize health insurance markets.