Senate Republicans late Tuesday accepted an amendment to their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would repeal the individual mandate. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said repealing the requirement to buy insurance aims “to help provide additional relief to low- and middle-income families.”
House and Senate conservatives, many of whom have not given up on dismantling the Democrat’s health insurance overhaul, applauded the move. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a champion of the populist wing of the GOP, said the move will be a big boon for working Americans.
“I’m pleased the Senate Finance Committee has accepted my proposal to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate in the tax legislation,” Sen. Cotton said. “Repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place. I urge the House to include the mandate repeal in their tax legislation.”
It’s unclear whether House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will accept the amendment. The House has put out its own version of tax reform, which the U.S. Constitution requires to introduce legislation related to taxation. Conservatives on the conservative Republican Study Committee endorsed the addition of the amendment and called on the House to amend their own version.
“Adding the repeal of the individual mandate to tax reform could be the most consequential step this Congress takes to date in fulfilling our promises to the American people to both reform the tax code and repeal ObamaCare,” the group said in a statement. “Repealing the individual mandate is the right policy decision. It frees Americans to make their own health care decisions and saves over $300 billion. It appears the Senate is keeping its promises. The House should do the same. Let’s repeal the individual mandate and restart the process of repealing ObamaCare.”
However, Speaker Ryan pushed back in response when asked about the move during a town hall hosted by Fox News, adding the House version of the tax reform bill didn’t include it because “we didn’t want to needlessly complicate” the vote. He gave a very evasive answer claiming the previous vote to repeal the individual mandate was proof “we’re on record in favor of this.”
He said adding the repeal of the individual mandate will likely cost the House moderate Republican votes, many of the same lawmakers being those who represent states with high state and local taxes. The House and Senate versions of the bill dismantled the state and local tax deductions.
“Obviously, we’re in favor of repealing the individual mandate,” Speaker Ryan said, “but we didn’t want to needlessly complicate the passage of tax reform. So, we want to see the Senate go first and see if they can get that done and then we’ll discuss whether or not it gets included at the end.”
To satisfy so-called moderates, the Senate Finance Committee also added an amendment put forward by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., which increases the child tax credit to $2,000. Previous versions of the bill increased the credit from the current $1,000 to $1,650, an amount opponents argued didn’t incentivize families to work enough.
The proposal has the support of Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who have led the fight to increase the child tax credit. It is also a top priority for the White House and has been championed by Ivanka Trump.