House Republicans consider repealing individual mandate in tax bill: Sources

Key Points
  • House Republicans are actively considering including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate in their tax bill, three sources told CNBC.
  • That measure could come as an amendment Thursday or a procedural move next week.
  • A document obtained by CNBC argues that repealing the individual mandate could make passing tax reform easier.
House GOP actively considering repealing individual mandate in tax bill

House Republicans on Wednesday evening were actively considering a last-minute addition to their tax bill that would repeal the individual mandate to carry health insurance, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

Republican leadership has come under heavy pressure from conservatives to include the provision, either as part of an amendment to the tax plan during debate in the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday or through a procedural move if the bill advances to consideration on the floor next week.

The influential Republican Study Committee blasted out talking points supporting the idea to lawmakers and their staff on Wednesday, according to a document obtained by CNBC. It argues that repealing the individual mandate could make passing tax reform easier.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday estimated that the measure would raise government revenues by $338 billion over a decade — money that Republicans could use to help pay for tax cuts.

"This additional fiscal space could be used by the Ways and Means Committee to improve the tax reform bill even further, making it more pro-growth," the talking points state.

A spokesperson for the Ways and Means committee did not immediately return a request for comment.

However, the CBO also estimated that 13 million more people would be uninsured in a decade if the mandate were eliminated. That would reduce the amount the federal government spends on insurance subsidies for low-income households, translating into higher revenues for the government.

In addition, the politics of health care have proven toxic for Republicans. Repealing the individual mandate could muddy the waters of tax reform as the GOP searches for a much-needed legislative win.

"Voters sent an unmistakable message to Donald Trump and Republicans last night: take healthcare coverage from millions of Americans in order to cut taxes for the wealthy and big corporations at your own risk," said Shripal Shah, vice president of American Bridge, a Democratic political action committee.

The RSC talking points attack the CBO's methodology and argue its estimates are often wrong.

"If Obamacare is great health insurance, why do Americans have to be forced to purchase it?" the document reads.

In the Senate, the idea appears to be gaining traction, with at least five Republicans voicing support for the measure. On Tuesday, Texas Sen.Ted Cruz told reporters he hoped it would be part of the Senate tax bill slated for release Thursday.

"We need to do even more to provide a tax cut to every American," he said. "I think there is a path forward, which is repealing the individual mandate."

The White House had reportedly prepared an executive order that would gut Obamacare's individual mandate, but President Donald Trump held off on signing it to see if a repeal of the mandate would be added to the GOP tax bill.

— CNBC's Angelica Lavito contributed to this report.