Senate GOP nearing decision on repeal of ObamaCare mandate

Senate GOP nearing decision on repeal of ObamaCare mandate
© Greg Nash

Republican senators appear to be nearing a decision over whether to include the repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate in tax-reform legislation.

GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee met Monday night to discuss the issue, Republican aides said. The full Senate Republican caucus will discuss the idea at its lunch meeting on Tuesday, and sources said a decision could be made as soon as Tuesday.

A Senate GOP aide said repeal of the mandate could be included in an updated tax-reform bill being released later Tuesday.

"Republican senators are discussing pairing the repeal of the individual mandate with an overhaul of the tax code and using the revenue to provide more relief for middle-class families," the aide said. "This is something that is under consideration to be included in the chairman’s modified mark, though no final decisions have been made."

Republican leaders had been doing a whip count to see if there is enough support in the caucus for repealing the mandate.

Sources said Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) was one of the senators pushing for mandate repeal at the meeting Monday night.

Asked about the meeting, Toomey told The Hill he would not comment on particular discussions. He added, "I've long been an advocate for repealing the individual mandate through whatever vehicle makes sense."

Including the repeal of the mandate could help Republicans pay for their tax bill by saving more than $300 billion over 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office also projects that 13 million more people would be uninsured and premiums would rise if the penalty for not having insurance were scrapped.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Congress passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance MORE (R-Maine), who will be a key vote, warned against linking ObamaCare to the tax bill.

"My concern is that if we combine the health care issues with tax reform we make it far more controversial," she told reporters. 

President Trump has been publicly pushing the idea and tweeted about it on Monday, saying it should be part of the bill.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRepublicans wary of US action on Iran EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Rand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' MORE (R-Ky.) also tweeted his support for including the mandate.

Jordain Carney contributed. This story was updated at 1:06 p.m.