It is highly unlikely for the House to repeal the mandate to buy the insurance under Obamacare as part of the tax-reform bill, GOP sources say, though the issue could still return down the road.
President Trump and conservative lawmakers are pushing for the individual mandates to be repealed in the bill, but the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady has expressed his worry that the controversial measure nay jeopardize the broader tax-reform bill, after the given the Senate’s failure on the health care earlier this year.
“It hasn’t ever been in the [House] bill,” said a Republican on the Ways and Means Committee who took part in the negotiations. “I expect that it will be added somewhere down the sausage-making venture.”
“I agree there is a chance, but I think if it gets included, it would be on the Senate side,” added a second Republican.
Senate GOP leaders say that they plan to roll out their own tax bills on Thursday this week. Senator Tom Cotton has been the one leading GOP senator pushing to include the repeal of the mandate within the tax bill.
House leaders emerging from a meeting on Monday evening said no final decision were made on the individual mandates issue, and Brady and Speaker Paul Ryan both said in their interviews in recent days that they have still not ruled out the idea.
“We have an active conversation with our members on a whole host of ideas on things to add to this bill and that’s one of the things being discussed,” Ryan said.
But Brady had expressed concerns about including the mandate’s repeal at an event last week, saying, “There are pros and cons to this. Importing health care into a tax-reform debate has consequences.”
If Congress doesn’t act, Trump has vowed that he would. The president is reportedly considering taking this executive action on the insurance mandate if the Congress leaves it out of the tax-reform bill proposal.
A lobbyist said that the administration is working on guidance, which might not be exactly in the form of an executive order, that would expand what are known as “hardship exemptions” that had allowed people to be exempted from the mandate’s requirement to have the health insurance or to pay a fine.
Brady said on Monday that the repeal of the certain Obamacare taxes would not be included in the tax reforms. Instead, he said he would be working with the Democrats on temporary relief from measures like medical device taxes and health insurance taxes.
“We are working on common-sense temporary and targeted relief from many of these taxes to be acted on in the House before the end of the year,” Brady had said.
Repealing the whole mandate could destabilize the health insurance markets, experts repeatedly warn, by removing an incentive for the healthy people to enroll. The Congressional Budget Office has previously also estimated that repealing the mandate would further boost an increase premiums by 20 percent.
Trump has been pushing to repeal the mandate in the tax-reforms bill. Brady had said last week that Trump had asked for it several times on phone as well as in person. Trump also said that at a meeting of Republican lawmakers at the White House last week that he had wanted to repeal the mandate in tax reforms and had floated adding it in the Senate, attendees had said.
Two conservative leaders, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and the Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, have been pushing the leadership to repeal the mandate in the tax bills. Walker has been slightly more aggressive, and went on to calling it a “good move.”
“When given the opportunity to actually address even part of an Obamacare repeal with a simple majority, our leadership consistently finds excuses to justify their failure,” said a conservative House lawmaker. “The individual mandate will be repealed by the president while Congress makes excuses.”
A number of lawmakers — both on and off the Ways and Means panel — are predicting the tax legislation Brady unveiled last week would attract the 218 GOP votes needed for passage.
While a handful of vocal New York and New Jersey Republicans are objecting to a provision of the bill that scraps or limits state and local tax deductions, most moderate Republicans have signaled they will go along with the legislation rather than derail one of the GOP’s top campaign promises of the 2016 elections.
So there is a reluctance among GOP vote-counters to add the insurance provision and upset that fragile balance.
“I believe it’s going to be a very strong vote based on my interactions with members and their passion to reform the tax code,” Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who serves on both the Ways and Means Committee and Ryan’s leadership team, said of the current version of the bill.