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Senate GOP to add repeal of Obamacare insurance mandate into tax bill

Senate GOP to add repeal of Obamacare insurance mandate into tax bill Washington PostHere's How The New Tax Plan Could Hurt Graduate Students NPRThe Republican tax bill benefits the establishment and corporate allies The HillFull coverage

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Sen. Rand Paul (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP) November 14 at 2:55 PM

Senate Republican leaders have decided to include a major change to their fast-moving tax cut bill that would repeal a key plank of the Affordable Care Act, trying to accomplish two of their top domestic priorities in a single piece of legislation.

The major change was discussed Tuesday by Republican senators during a closed-door lunch. They decided attach a provision to their tax cut bill that would repeal a provision of the health care law that creates penalties for Americans who don’t have health insurance.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said Tuesday after meeting with his GOP colleagues.

Republicans had so far resisted making the change, worried that injecting health care politics into the process could imperil the tax bill, but many of their members have supported the idea and they appear on the verge of including it.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and a member of the finance committee that is drafting the tax bill, said repealing the individual mandate will allow them to further cut taxes for middle income families.

Senate Republicans released their tax proposal on Nov. 9, but face some hurdles to reconcile the differences among senators, congressmen and President Trump in order to sign a bill into law. (Jenny Starrs,Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)

“It’ll be distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief,” he said. “It will give us even more of an opportunity to really distribute the relief to those middle income cohorts who could really benefit from it.”

But the change could also serve to fortify opposition from Democrats, who have so far failed to slow GOP momentum as they look to pass the tax cut measure in the next few weeks.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the new GOP bill, in addition to the tax cuts, that in addition to repealing the individual mandate, the updated tax bill could likely include a new bipartisan health care agreement recently reached by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash).

That agreement would fund federal subsidies used to help lower-income Americans afford their health care.

The push for the change came after repeated demands from President Trump, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark).

Repealing the health care provision, known as the individual mandate, could free up more than $300 billion in government spending over the next decade, but it could also lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance over that span, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Paul on Tuesday said he would seek to add an amendment to the tax cut bill that would repeal the individual mandate and use the savings to lower taxes for middle class families. The tax cut bills in the House and Senate would lower taxes for many Americans, but researchers have found that millions would pay higher taxes, particularly if they lived in states like New York, New Jersey, and California.

But he might not need to propose an amendment not that GOP leaders have largely agreed to make the change. The bill could not be amended during debate this week in the Senate Finance Committee.

Trump has called for the adding a repeal of the individual mandate into the tax cut bill, though he has said the savings should go toward lowering the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans.

Repealing all or part of the Affordable Care Act has been a long-held goal for Republicans, but they have failed repeatedly this year.

Republicans spent much of the first eight months of 2011 trying to jettison President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, but they were repeatedly stymied by GOP defections in the Senate, with a handful of Republicans saying they wanted the changes to be either more sweeping or done in a bipartisan way.

But Paul was one of the GOP senators who had prevented the previous Senate efforts, and his support for this new change could help its chances of passage there.

House GOP leaders have said they would explore whether to include a repeal of the individual mandate in their version of the tax cut bill, but they have so far not made that change. They are hoping to vote on their version of the measure as soon as Thursday.

The House and Senate must pass matching versions of the tax cut bill in order for Trump to be able to sign them into law.

Republicans control just 52 votes of the 100-seat Senate, and so the defection of three members would imperil any changes to the bill. They are trying to pass the tax cut bill through a process known as reconciliation, which means they only need a majority of support to pass the bill.

Paul said that in addition to repealing the individual mandate, he wanted the tax cut bill changed in a way that allowed Americans to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes from their federal income, a change that Senate GOP leaders have so far rejected.

The property tax deduction is allowed in the House GOP tax bill but not in the Senate version. It could not be learned whether this change was being entertained by GOP leaders or whether they would only include the provision related to the Affordable Care Act.

President Trump as recently as Monday called on Congress to include a similar change

Americans can currently deduct their property taxes as well as their state income taxes from their federal taxable income, but the GOP tax bills would change some of that. The House and the Senate bills would Americans from deducting state income taxes, though they would be paying lower rates on their income. But the House GOP agreed to allow Americans to deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes as a way to assuage complaints that Americans in high-tax states like New York and New Jersey would be protected from some of the changes.

Paul, in his Twitter posts, wrote that allowing the property tax deductions would better align the House and Senate tax cut bills, improving the prospects that the effort would eventually lead to a new law.

“This will help ensure House acceptance of the Senate plan as leaders there have stated they will not accept a plan with no state and local deductibility,” Paul wrote.

So far, most estimates have found that a majority of Americans would see their taxes go down under the House and Senate tax bills, but millions of Americans would still see an increase.

The Senate Finance Committee is debating their version of the tax bill this week, and Republicans hope to approve it within days.

The House and Senate must pass matching versions of the tax cut bill before they can be signed into law by Trump.

Republicans are hopeful they can pass the tax cut bill by early December, when they have a number of other issues they need to resolve and face the prospect of losing a Senate seat because of the special election in Alabama.

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