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WH Open to Axing Health From Tax Bill  11/20 06:17

   The White House says it's willing to strike a health-care provision from 
Senate legislation to cut taxes and overhaul the tax code if the provision 
becomes an impediment to passing one of President Donald Trump's top 
legislative priorities.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says it's willing to strike a health-care 
provision from Senate legislation to cut taxes and overhaul the tax code if the 
provision becomes an impediment to passing one of President Donald Trump's top 
legislative priorities.

   The provision would repeal a requirement that everyone in the U.S. have 
health insurance or pay a fine, but has emerged as a major sticking point for 
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote the White House needs. 
Collins said Sunday that the issue should be dealt with separately.

   Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the White House is open to 
scrapping the provision, which would repeal a key component of the Affordable 
Care Act health law enacted by President Barack Obama. Trump had pressed for 
the provision to be added to the bill, partly to show progress on the GOP goal 
of undoing the health care law following Congress' failed attempts to repeal it 
earlier this year.

   "I don't think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and 
replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it," Mulvaney said Sunday. "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.

   "If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we're 
OK with taking it out," Mulvaney added.

   Legislative director Marc Short said Sunday that the White House "is very 
comfortable with the House bill," which does not include the so-called 
individual mandate. But Short also said the White House views the mandate as a 
tax and "we like the fact that the Senate has included it in its bill."

   At issue is a provision to repeal the requirement that everyone in the U.S. 
have health insurance or pay a fine. Eliminating the individual mandate would 
add an estimated $338 billion in revenue over 10 years that Senate tax-writers 
used for additional tax cuts.

   Collins said Sunday that the tax advantage that some middle-income consumers 
would reap under the tax bill could be wiped out by repealing the mandate. She 
said they would face higher insurance premiums coupled with the loss of federal 
subsidies to help them afford coverage.

   "The fact is that if you do pull this piece of the Affordable Care Act out, 
for some middle-income families, the increased premium is going to cancel out 
the tax cut that they would get," Collins said.

   Collins said she hasn't decided how to vote on the bill because it will be 
amended before it reaches the Senate floor. But her vote is crucial in a 
chamber where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 advantage.

   Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin became the first Republican to 
declare opposition, saying the plan wouldn't cut business taxes enough for 
partnerships and corporations. GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, John McCain 
and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also expressed 
concerns.

   Republicans can lose just two senators on the final vote, which would allow 
Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking 51st vote in his capacity as 
president of the Senate. Democrats are not expected to support the bill, as was 
the case when the House passed its version last week.

   Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the mandate amounts to "an unfair tax 
on poor people."

   "The president thinks we should get rid of it. I think we should get rid of 
it," he said, but added: "We're going to work with the Senate as we go through 
this."

   Mulvaney and Collins were interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union." Mnuchin 
spoke on "Fox News Sunday." Collins also appeared on ABC's "This Week," as did 
Short.


(KA)

 
 
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