WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said congressional Republicans should make a major change to their forthcoming tax cut bill by including changes to the Affordable Care Act, an idea that has divided the GOP for months.
The idea had already been rejected one day earlier by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who had said it risked bogging down the process. But Trump, in two Twitter posts on Wednesday, pushed the idea, which has been popular with Senate Republicans.
It could not be learned whether Trump's Twitter posts were simply a musing or an official change in administration policy.
The White House had previously said it wanted to pass a tax-cut bill first and then revisit the health care effort sometime in early 2018. It's also unclear if it would be logistically possible to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act – "often referred to as Obamacare" – as part of the tax bill, because they must meet certain congressional rules set by the Senate budget process.
In his Twitter post, Trump is referring to a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the "individual mandate," which is a penalty some Americans must pay if they don't have health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repealing the individual mandate would save more than $300 billion over 10 years and lead to roughly 15 million fewer Americans having health insurance because of a range of effects.
On Tuesday, Brady was asked about combining this change with his bill to rework the tax code, and he dismissed it during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt because he was skeptical the Senate would be able to approve the health care portion after multiple failed attempts.
"Look, I love these ideas from senators on health care, but what my constituents are looking at are for action on health care from our senators," Brady said. "The Senate has yet to pass the individual mandate. I'm still hopeful they can find a way forward. What I don't want to do is to add things that could again kill tax reform like health care died over there. So I say focus on jobs and growth and leapfrogging America to the lead pack worldwide."
The Washington Post's Carolyn Y. Johnson contributed to this report.