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 HoevenSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo MORE (R-N.D.) said, adding that the issue was discussed at Thursday's meeting.

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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 BradyDemocrats, GOP spar over Treasury rules on Trump tax law Ex-HHS chief threatens to vote 'no' on surprise medical billing measure Bipartisan Ways and Means leaders unveil measure to stop surprise medical bills 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 CornynBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday Democrats seek to drive wedge between Trump, GOP on whistleblowers 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 CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Ocasio-Cortez blasts Trump as 'corrupt' for blocking Global Entry for New Yorkers 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.

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Still, many Republican senators say they want the change. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday The advantage of paying for medical care directly 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.