Rand Paul said Tuesday that he plans to add an amendment to include the Obamacare mandate repeal in the Senate's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Even as Republicans embark on their attempt to overhaul the federal tax code, the fight over the future of the Affordable Care Act is again coming to the forefront.
Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday said the massive tax bill in the chamber would include the repeal of a key part of the healthcare law to free up more money for tax cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that it would be "helpful" to include the repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate in the tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
Other members of GOP leadership, Sens. John Thune and John Cornyn, also told reporters that the mandate repeal would be included in the bill.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch, who crafted the Senate's TCJA, told reporters Tuesday that the mandate's repeal was still on the table. During a hearing on the legislation, Hatch told committee members that the mandate repeal was not in the current version of the bill but demurred on whether it would be included a later version.
Adding the healthcare fight into the tax bill mix adds another political complication to an already volatile process.
The individual mandate, which imposes a penalty on people who go without health insurance, is a key part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. According to a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the mandate would reduce the federal deficit by $338 billion over 10 years.
The savings, according to the CBO, would come from 13 million more people going without health insurance compared to the current baseline. By eliminating the mandate, healthy people would likely drop out of the Obamacare exchanges leading to a sicker group of enrollees and higher costs. As costs rise, more and more people would be priced out of the market, causing the uninsured rate to increase.
The developments Tuesday came few hours after Sen. Rand Paul said he would offer an amendment to the bill to include the mandate repeal.
"Today I am announcing my intention to amend the Senate tax bill to repeal the individual mandate and provide bigger tax cuts for middle income taxpayers," Paul tweeted. "The mandate repeal is a promise we all made and we should keep. It also allows an additional $300 billion+ in tax cuts."
The Obamacare individual mandate repeal has become a point of emphasis for many conservative GOP members in the debate over the TCJA.
President Donald Trump has also supported the inclusion of the repeal in tweets multiple time including on Monday.
"Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?" Trump tweeted.
But including the mandate repeal runs the risk of losing more moderate votes, like GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. They helped block earlier efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, in part because they felt the attempts would leave too many people without coverage.
According to Bloomberg's Steven Dennis, Collins said including the mandate repeal would end any chance of getting Democratic votes for the TCJA. She said she worried that the repeal would increase insurance premiums.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the move proved that Republicans "are doubling down on the same partisan strategy that would throw our health care system into chaos."
"If the American people weren’t already outraged by this bill," he said, "injecting healthcare into it will certainly do the trick."