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 HoevenBottom Line Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal 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 BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm 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 CornynGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban 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 CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal 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 CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House Senators confirm Erdoğan played 'propaganda' video in White House meeting 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.