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 HoevenBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Overnight Energy: Trump rollback of Obama mileage standards faces court challenges | Court strikes down EPA suspension of Obama greenhouse gas rule | Trump floats cutting domestic oil production 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 BradyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Trump signs executive orders aimed at lowering drug prices 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 CornynThis week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection 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 CollinsObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann Murkowski300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding 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 CruzOn The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP Trump tests GOP loyalty with election tweet and stimulus strategy Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election 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.