The White House wouldn’t oppose removing from the Senate tax plan a controversial provision to repeal the individual health care mandate of the Affordable Care Act, budget director Mick Mulvaney said, a move that could help secure the vote of key Republicans.
The provision could be dropped if it becomes “an impediment,” Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that’s great,” he said. “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mulvaney said the White House “would love to see Obamacare taken apart all at once, bit by bit, however we can do it,” but that if the mandate repeal “needs to come out in order for that good tax bill to pass, we can live with that as well.”
White House legislative director Marc Short said the administration approves of the Senate’s move to include the repeal of the individual mandate in its bill because it’s a tax that predominately affects those earning $50,000 a year or less.
“The White House is very comfortable with the House bill,” Short said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We also, though, believe the individual mandate is a tax, and it is harming middle-income families the most. So we like the fact that the Senate has included it in its bill.”
Mulvaney made three appearances on Sunday political talk shows. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Short also spoke, reflecting the Trump administration’s full-bore attempt to sell the Republican tax plans now working their way through Congress.
No ‘Bargaining Chip’
Mnuchin said the individual mandate repeal hadn’t been added to the Senate bill as a bargaining chip that could be removed later if it risked costing the votes of key Republican senators such as Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Photo: Collins)
“This isn’t a bargaining chip,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Right now our objective is to keep it in,” he said, adding that “we’re going to work with the Senate as we go through this.”
The individual mandate, a key element of the Affordable Care Act, requires most Americas to obtain health insurance or pay a fine. Repealing it in the Senate plan would give Republicans more revenue to work with in their tax-cutting efforts because fewer people would buy insurance and receive federal subsidies to help pay for their coverage.
If no Democrats vote for the Senate bill, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes and still pass it under Senate rules.
Collins said Sunday on ABC that the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee “needs work” when it comes to the Senate floor, and that the decision to include the individual mandate repeal was a mistake. Asked if she can vote for the measure as written, she said “I haven’t reached that conclusion yet, because I think there are going to be further changes.”
Collins said she’s concerned about premiums increasing if the mandate is removed and isn’t mitigated by legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act public exchange system.
“It’s a problem for me if it is not mitigated,” Collins said. She said she also wants to keep the top individual income-tax rate at the current 39.6% and that the state and local tax deduction, targeted for elimination in the Senate bill, should be continued.
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that the mandate should be eliminated because lower-income people are still getting subsidies to reduce their premiums.
“The vast majority of people on the Obamacare exchanges are getting subsidies,” Cotton said. “So if their premiums do go up, they’re still going to get higher subsidies.”