Se­nate GOP in­sist­ing on ‘Oba­macare’ re­peal

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Marcy Gor­don

WASH­ING­TON » Se­nate Repub­li­cans said Tues­day they are in­tent on re­peal­ing the health care law re­quire­ment that Amer­i­cans get health in­sur­ance, tar­get­ing the pro­vi­sion as a way to fi­nance deep tax cuts in their far-reach­ing over­haul.

The sur­prise re­newal of the failed ef­fort to re­peal the law’s man­date came a day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­newed pres­sure on GOP law­mak­ers to in­clude the re­peal in their tax leg­is­la­tion. It has sharp po­lit­i­cal stakes for Trump, who lacks a ma­jor leg­isla­tive achieve­ment af­ter nearly 10 months in of­fice.

The move by Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee up­ended the de­bate over the tax mea­sure just as it was inch­ing closer to pas­sage fol­low­ing months of fine-tun­ing and com­pro­mise. It turned the de­bate into an an­gry par­ti­san ref­er­en­dum on health care and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture law.

Beyond Trump’s prod­ding, the re­peal move also was dic­tated by the Repub­li­cans’ need to find rev­enue sources for the mas­sive tax-cut bill that calls for steep re­duc­tions in the cor­po­rate tax rate and elim­i­na­tion of some pop­u­lar tax breaks.

“We are op­ti­mistic that in­sert­ing the in­di­vid­ual man­date re­peal would be help­ful; that’s ob­vi­ously the view of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans,” Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., told re­porters.

The “Oba­macare” man­date re­quires most peo­ple to buy health in­sur­ance cov­er­age or face a fine. With­out be­ing forced to get cov­er­age, fewer peo­ple would sign up for Med­i­caid or buy fed­er­ally sub­si­dized pri­vate in­sur­ance. Tar­get­ing the man­date in the tax leg­is­la­tion would save an es­ti­mated $338 bil­lion over a decade that could be used to help pay for the deep cuts.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has es­ti­mated re­peal­ing the re­quire­ment that peo­ple buy health cov­er­age would mean 4 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured peo­ple by 2019 and 13 mil­lion more by 2027.

It “will cause mil­lions to lose their health care and mil­lions more to lose their pre­mi­ums,” Sen. Ron Wy­den of Ore­gon, the se­nior Demo­crat on the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, an­grily in­sisted when the panel re­con­vened to work on the tax bill and word came of the Repub­li­cans’ move on the man­date.

Feel­ing am­bushed with­out ad­vance no­tice, mi­nor­ity Democrats ex­ploded in anger.

The com­pleted House tax bill, pointed to­ward a vote in that cham­ber on Thurs­day, does not cur­rently in­clude re­peal of the health in­sur­ance man­date. Trump plans an in-per­son ap­peal to House Repub­li­cans be­fore the vote.

Repub­li­can Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas had pushed for the re­peal in the tax bill just months af­ter GOP ef­forts to dis­man­tle the 2010 health care law had col­lapsed in the Se­nate.

“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,” Cot­ton said in a state­ment.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans pro­jected con­fi­dence ear­lier in the day about de­liv­er­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

“This bill will make things bet­ter for hard­work­ing Amer­i­cans,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told re­porters.

House GOP lead­ers ral­lied sup­port with the rankand-file at a closed-door meet­ing.

Ear­lier in the Se­nate panel’s work on the bill, the Democrats com­plained that the bill would en­able U.S. cor­po­ra­tions with for­eign op­er­a­tions and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to ex­ploit loopholes to skirt mil­lions in taxes.

On Mon­day, a non­par­ti­san anal­y­sis of the Se­nate bill showed it would in­crease taxes for some 13.8 mil­lion mod­er­ate-in­come Amer­i­can house­holds.

Pro­moted as needed re­lief for the mid­dle class, the House and Se­nate bills would deeply cut cor­po­rate taxes, dou­ble the stan­dard de­duc­tion used by most Amer­i­cans and limit or re­peal com­pletely the fed­eral de­duc­tion for state and lo­cal prop­erty, in­come and sales taxes. Repub­li­can lead­ers in Con­gress view pas­sage of the first ma­jor tax re­vamp in 30 years as im­per­a­tive for the GOP to pre­serve its ma­jori­ties in next year’s elec­tions.

Trump’s planned pitch on Capi­tol Hill, af­ter re­turn­ing from his Asia trip, was dis­closed by a White House of­fi­cial who wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pub­licly the pres­i­dent’s sched­ule and spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity. In the mean­time, Trump tweeted into the de­bate Mon­day by urg­ing Repub­li­can lead­ers to get more ag­gres­sive in the tax leg­is­la­tion. He called for a steeper tax cut for wealthy Amer­i­cans and the ad­di­tion of a con­tentious health care change to the al­ready com­plex mix.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., points to boxes of pe­ti­tions sup­port­ing the Repub­li­can tax re­form bill that is set for a vote later this week as he ar­rives for a news con­fer­ence Tues­day on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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