The Senate Finance Committee’s (SFC) proposal to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) individual mandate has gained support from a key Republican vote on tax reform—Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alas. The repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate would help cover tax reform costs and conform to Senate budget reconciliation rules. The House tax reform bill does not include the provision.
Individual Mandate Repeal Gains Support
Murkowski announced her support for the repeal of the ACA individual mandate in a November 21 op-ed, saying she has always supported the freedom to choose. “I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed,” Murkowski wrote.
Including the repeal of the ACA provision in a tax reform package has been thought on Capitol Hill to be a controversial move. Senate Republicans’ failed to pass legislation earlier this year that would have repealed the ACA. Murkowski voted with Democrats against the earlier GOP efforts.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Tex., has said the ACA provision was not included in the House-approved tax reform bill to avoid causing problems with Senate approval. The Senate bill can only afford to lose two Republican votes under reconciliation rules. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has said he opposes the bill and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., has said changes need to be made. Murkowski’s support of the ACA individual mandate repeal is seen on Capitol Hill as a “win” for the bill’s chances of success. However, Murkowski has not expressly stated support for the tax bill as a whole.
White House Position
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had said in a November 19 interview that the White House supports repealing the ACA’s individual mandate but not at the expense of a successful tax bill. “If [repeal] becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, we’re okay with taking it out,” Mulvaney said.
Meanwhile, Senate and House Democrats remain united against many of Republicans’ tax bill proposals, including the inclusion of the individual mandate repeal. Little to no Democratic support is anticipated. A full Senate vote on the bill is expected the week of November 27.
By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff