Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the Trump administration wants a repeal of the individual health care mandate included in the GOP’s tax reform plan, but is willing to take it out if it gets in the way of passage.
“If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of the tax bill, and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that’s great,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can we’re okay with taking it out.”
But Mulvaney added that he doesn’t think the repeal of the Affordable Care Act mandate, which requires that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty, is an impediment yet.
“Fifty-eight percent of the folks who pay the fine make less than ($50,000) and almost 80% of the people that pay that fine today make less than $100,000,” he said. “So there’s a benefit to folks if the repeal goes away. But again, it’s up to the House and Senate to hammer through those details.”
In a separate interview on the program, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said senators needed to take the individual mandate repeal out of the legislation.
“I don’t think that provision should be in the bill,” Collins told anchor Jake Tapper. “I hope the Senate will follow the lead of the House and strike it.”
The proposal that passed the House does not contain language repealing the core Obamacare tenet.
Collins is a relative moderate among the Senate GOP caucus and was one of the decisive “no” votes earlier this year in GOP attempts to repeal and replace much of Obamacare.
On Sunday, she called for passage of a pair of bipartisan bills that aim to stabilize and improve health care markets. One bill is legislation she and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are pushing, and the other is a proposal by Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Collins also defended the tax proposal against the Democrats’ criticism of it as a giveaway to the wealthy. Collins said it is not “fair” to characterize the tax proposal that way, but thinks more could be done to help those earning lower and middle incomes.
“It benefits people of all tax brackets, but what I want to do is to skew more of that relief to middle- and low-income families,” Collins said.
Sanders slams bill
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, blasted the GOP tax bill, calling it a “terrible, terrible piece of legislation” and warning it would balloon the deficit.
“What this legislation is about is fulfilling the promises, Republican promises, made to wealthy campaign contributors,” Sanders said on “State of the Union.” “There is a reason why the billionaire class provides hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans, and now is payback time.”
Sanders said if the mandate is repealed, individuals paying for insurance will be footing the bill for those who opt out, and insurance costs will rise.
“The studies indicate that when you repeal the individual mandate, what you’re going to see is premiums go up for everybody else by about 10% because your pool of consumers will be older and sicker,” he said.
The result of the GOP tax bill, Sanders said, will be cuts to social welfare programs.
“When they run up a one-and-a-half trillion dollar deficit, as they will in this legislation, they’re going to come back … with massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because they say, ‘Oh my goodness, the deficit and the national debt are too high,’” Sanders added.
Others within the Trump administration also hinted at some flexibility over the mandate’s inclusion in the Senate’s tax bill.
White House Legislative Director Marc Short told ABC’s “This Week” that the White House likes that a mandate repeal is included in the Senate bill.
“The White House is very comfortable with the House bill … As you know, it does not have the individual mandate in it,” Short said. “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.”
And Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday” that the administration’s current objective is to keep the mandate’s repeal in the bill.
“But we’re going to work with the Senate as we go through this,” he added.