Several House Republicans said they didn’t believe that a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in tax reform legislation would threaten talks to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The House and Senate are naming members of a conference committee to iron out differences between the competing tax bills. A major difference between the two measures is the Senate version includes the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate penalties, and the House version does not.
Some House members who voted against Obamacare repeal in May and for tax reform last month weren't concerned about voting for a final bill that would repeal the mandate that everyone buy insurance. Twenty Republican lawmakers voted against Obamacare repeal in May, which passed by a 217-213 vote, and 13 voted against tax reform.
“I think the individual mandate question was never the burning issue for me,” said retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who voted against repeal. “People will choose to not be covered, which is a shame, but on the other hand, forcing them has never been a great Republican position. That one has not been my burning issue. Overall, I believe that the tax reform package is improved by the Senate.”
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., another lawmaker who voted for the tax bill but against repeal, didn’t express any love for the individual mandate when asked about it by the Washington Examiner.
“You mean the tax that 80 percent of it hits people making under $50,000?” he said Tuesday. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
He added that he voted against Obamacare repeal for other reasons, but did not elaborate.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said he isn’t “hearing outcries” over adding the repeal to the final version of the tax bill.
“We all want the mandate gone,” he said. “The issue was mixing healthcare with tax reform.”
The $330 billion in new revenue that repealing the mandate would raise for the treasury, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, has helped “put some important things back into the bill," Collins said. CBO also said repealing the mandate would cause 13 million more people to go without health insurance.
Another estimate from Standard & Poor’s found repealing the mandate would generate up to $60 billion in new funding, with only three to five million people going without insurance. CBO has said it is looking at its methodology for examining insurance coverage under the mandate.
The House voted on Monday to name its representatives for the conference with the Senate, and the Senate is expected to do the same soon. Several Republicans have said the goal is to get the tax bill to President Trump’s desk by Christmas.
Representatives from the two chambers will meet to hammer out differences in the two bills. After a compromise is reached, the House and Senate will vote again on a final bill.
“There are important nuances,” Collins said. “They can easily be compromised.”
• Washington Examiner Reporters Susan Ferrechio and Kimberly Leonard contributed to this report.