As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

 In U.S.
President Trump’s budget director said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the Republican tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move that would fundamentally reshape the effort in the Senate.

In a television interview, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration would be fine with jettisoning a proposal to repeal the ACA’s individual mandate if it becomes a hindrance to passing the tax bill, which is the GOP’s top legislative priority.

“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,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we are okay with taking it out.”

He said it would ultimately be up to House and Senate negotiators to figure it out.

Mulvaney’s comments came as party leaders race to try to get a tax bill to Trump’s desk by year’s end. Despite controlling both Congress and the White House, the GOP has been unable to produce any other sweeping legislative accomplishments.

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday that the White House is open to a compromise on the individual mandate for health insurance in order to get a tax bill to President Trump’s desk. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The Republicans seek to pass a far-reaching plan to simplify the tax code and slash rates. The majority of the cuts would go to corporations and wealthy Americans.

The House passed its version of the plan last week. The Senate intends to take up its own legislation on the Senate floor when lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving recess.

One key difference between the bills is the repeal of the individual mandate. In a strategy shift, Senate GOP leaders added the repeal to their plan last week. The House bill does not include it.

Adding the mandate repeal freed up more than $300 billion in additional revenue, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing Senate Republican tax writers more flexibility to pay for the deep tax cuts they seek.

It also gave Senate Republicans an opportunity to go after the law known as Obamacare, which they have been unable to repeal and replace despite years of promises to the conservative base to do so.

But the CBO also found that 13 million fewer Americans would have health insurance after 10 years and that insurance premiums would rise by 10 percent.

Some Republican senators who have resisted their party’s efforts to shred the ACA have approached with caution or hostility the idea of repealing the individual mandate with the tax bill.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) reiterated her opposition to the idea Sunday. Last week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said a recent bipartisan compromise aiming to stabilize insurance markets was “important” and would be “particularly so” if the individual mandate was repealed.

If the health-care language is stripped from the bill, Senate Republican leaders could be forced to change the plan dramatically. Possibilities include making corporate tax cuts temporary rather than permanent and cutting back on a proposed expansion of the child tax credit.

Collins, a centrist who has voiced several worries about the Senate bill, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the “biggest mistake” was including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

She expressed hope that it would be dropped from the proposal or that a plan pushed by her and other senators to mitigate its effects would be adopted. Collins did not say how she would vote on the bill, voicing a belief that the measure will change.

Speaking on the same program, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the White House is “very comfortable with the House bill” because it achieves its top priorities on taxes. He noted that the House bill does not include the mandate repeal.

But he also praised the Senate’s inclusion of it, saying he believes the individual mandate is hurting middle-class families.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the mandate repeal is not a “bargaining chip. The president thinks we should get rid of it. I think we should get rid of it.”

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