The GOP tax plan got a big boost from a key Republican senator

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesGOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

  • Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that she supported the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of the GOP’s tax plan.
  • This is a positive for the tax bill, as there were concerns over Murkowski’s support amid proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Despite the support, there’s no guarantee the mandate repeal ends up in the final bill.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the handful of Republican senators who are question marks to support the GOP’s massive tax code overhaul, gave a big boost to the plan on Tuesday.

In an op-ed for the Fairbanks’ Daily News-Miner, Murkowski said she supported the Senate GOP’s plan to insert a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

“I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed,” Murkowski wrote. “That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception and also why I cosponsored a bill to repeal the individual mandate tax penalty starting as early as 2013.”

The Alaska senator previously helped block Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare over the summer. She cited the potential negative effects on the Medicaid program, insurance coverage, and Planned Parenthood.

Murkowski’s opposition drew concern that she could decline to support the TCJA due to the mandate repeal. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, 13 million more people would be without health insurance in 2027 compared to the current baseline if the mandate is repealed.

Murkowski, however, differentiated between Medicaid cuts in the previous Obamacare replacement bills and the mandate repeal.

“It is important to emphasise that eliminating this tax penalty does not take care away from anyone,” the senator wrote. “Instead, it provides important relief to those who have been penalised for choosing not to buy unaffordable insurance.”

At the same time, while the mandate appears to not be a deal-breaker for Murkowski, it doesn’t mean her vote is guaranteed. The senator did not explicitly endorse the tax legislation in her op-ed, and she called for the bipartisan insurance market stabilisation bill from GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to be passed in conjunction.

Other on-the-fence GOP senators, such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, could also balk at the mandate repeal’s inclusion. The Trump administration has not made the mandate repeal a red line. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, suggested last weekend that the White House would be fine with removing the provision from the tax legislation if it overly complicated the political logistics.

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