WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday linked repealing a key component of Obamacare to their ambitious tax-cut plan, raising new political risks and uncertainties for the tax measure that financial markets have been monitoring closely for months.
In comments that infuriated Democrats and left some senior Republicans unsure what comes next, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: “We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well.”
The finance panel, which had been in session for two days, abruptly adjourned on Tuesday as Democrats slammed the Republicans’ handling of their tax proposals, for which formal legislative language has still not been unveiled.
Ron Wyden, the committee’s top Democrat, demanded more time for Democrats to discuss the issue “because we were never told that healthcare was going to be part of it and this just flew in literally out of nowhere in the last 20 minutes.”
Tying Obamacare to the tax program introduces new risks for the Republicans and for President Donald Trump. Together, they have yet to score a major legislative win since Trump took power in January, even with control of Congress and the White House.
The president, who has struggled in his relations with Congress, suggested in a tweet on Monday that the mandate repeal should be added to the tax plan, following up on a similar Nov. 3 tweet.
No final decision on such a move was made at the Senate Republicans’ weekly luncheon, Senator Susan Collins told reporters afterward. She played a key role in July’s collapse of a years-long push by fellow Republicans to gut Obamacare, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
“I personally think that it complicates tax reform to put the repeal of the individual mandate in there,” Collins said.
Asked if she would back the tax bill if a mandate repeal were added, she said: “I‘m going to wait and see.”