Democrats seize on renewed ObamaCare fight

Greg Nash
Senate Democrats are quickly taking aim at Republicans’ decision to add a repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate into their tax-reform bill as they look for leverage in the looming fight. 
The GOP move to link health care to their proposal immediately added new life to the tax battle, with Democrats seizing on the development as a key part of their messaging war. 
“GOP is tying themselves in a knot. They’re cutting taxes on the wealthy [and] taking health care away from millions [and] raising the premiums of millions [of] others all to help reduce taxes on the rich. Does that sound familiar?” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a series of tweets on Tuesday. 
He added that Republicans are throwing the “health care system into chaos.” 
{mosads}Schumer was quickly echoed by several other Democratic senators, who panned Republicans’ decision. 
“As the saying goes, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said. 
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) added: “Here we go again. If you care about quality, affordable health care — it’s time to call your Senator and Member of Congress.” 
Republican senators said after a closed-door caucus lunch that they would include repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill — giving a key concession to conservative lawmakers and President Trump, both of whom have publicly backed the strategy. 
But the decision marked an instantaneous escalation of the Senate’s relatively muted tax debate. 
Unlike the Senate Finance Committee’s health-care hearing — where protesters were removed from the room and caused to the hallway outside of the hearing to get closed down — the first two days of the committee’s tax mark up have been relatively low-drama. 
Democrats believe health care is a potent political issue heading into the 2018 midterm elections. More than one-third of voters in last week’s Virginia elections called health care their top concern. 
“Republicans have awakened a sleeping giant. This is now a health care bill,” Topher Spiro, vice president of health policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a tweet

The Senate Democratic campaign arm immediately hit at Republicans over linking the repeal of the individual mandate to the tax bill, as well as the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) finding that the GOP tax plan could spark Medicare cuts.  

“This tax bill is nothing more than a vehicle for the GOP’s ongoing efforts to sabotage health care by spiking costs and driving up premiums for working families,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 
He added that “this is a toxic combination guaranteed to turn off voters of every political persuasion, and every GOP Senate candidate will be held accountable for it.” 

Experts have predicted repealing the mandate would undermine the stability of ObamaCare. The CBO has said 13 million people would lose health insurance.

But it would also give Republicans an extra $300 to $400 billion to help pay for tax cuts. 

Democrats can’t block the tax bill on their own. With Republicans holding a 52-seat majority, they can afford to lose two GOP senators and still have Vice President Pence break a tie. 
Democratic senators immediately tried to put Republican senators on defense, refocusing the tax fight as a renewed battle over health care. Three GOP senators joined with Democrats in July to kill a “skinny” ObamaCare repeal bill.
“In their desperation to secure an ideological trophy, no matter the consequences, Republicans are choosing to pay for corporate tax cuts by raising premiums for middle class families and ripping away health care altogether from millions more,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee. 
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) added that Republicans were willing to undercut health insurance to benefit the wealthiest Americans. 
“The @GOP needs to take a hard look at their tax bill and ask themselves: Is the health care of 13 MILLION Americans really worth making the 1% richer?” Booker said in a tweet. 
Tags Charles Schumer Christopher Coons Chuck Schumer Cory Booker Mazie Hirono ObamaCare individual mandate Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Ron Wyden Tax reform
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