Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski announces support for repealing individual mandate, a potential boost to tax overhaul

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Tuesday she supports repealing the Affordable Care’s Act individual mandate, potentially providing a boost to GOP efforts to overhaul the tax code.

“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 in an opinion piece published Tuesday by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Senate Republicans’ plan to rewrite the tax code includes a provision to repeal the individual mandate, a part of the 2010 health care law that requires almost all Americans to have some form of health insurance or pay a fine.

Murkowski has not said how she’ll vote on the tax bill, and she did not mention it in her opinion piece. But her willingness to repeal the mandate removes one potential obstacle to her support for the tax plan.

The Alaska moderate is a key swing vote as Republican leaders attempt to assemble support for their tax plan. They need 50 votes to move the measure through the Senate, and they control 52 seats. The bill would likely fail in the Senate if three Republicans oppose it, as Democrats are expected to unanimously oppose the plan.

Murkowski was one of three Senators this summer who joined with Democrats to block a GOP effort to repeal the large parts of the Affordable Care Act. She said Tuesday that she supports changes to the law, including undoing the mandate, but that she still supports keeping other parts of it intact.

“I have always supported the freedom to choose,” she wrote, writing that she still believes the Affordable Care Act has helped many people in her state and would continue to do so if Congress were to drop the individual mandate.

“Repealing the individual mandate simply restores to people the freedom to choose. Nothing else about the structure of the ACA would be changed,” Murkowski wrote.

Repealing the mandate would result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance and drive up insurance premiums for many Americans by roughly 10 percent, according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The mandate repeal would also save the government more than $300 billion over the next decade, according to CBO, as fewer people buying insurance would mean the government would pay out less in subsidies.

Republicans plan to use that revenue to their proposed tax cuts, part of an effort to keep their bill in line with Senate procedures limiting how much the measure can add to the deficit but still pass with only a simple majority.

Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are aiming to pass legislation by year’s end that would simplify the code and deliver $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over a decade. Both the House and Senate bills deliver the majority of the cuts to corporations and wealthy Americans, while also offering temporary tax cuts for the middle class and working class that Republicans hope would be extended in at a later date.

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