Brady Says Individual Mandate Repeal Isn’t Off the Table

Ways and Means chairman says that he has requested cost estimate of repealing backbone of 2010 health care law

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said changes to Republican tax overhaul bill are possible right up to the point that it goes to the House floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady on Tuesday left open the possibility that repeal of the 2010 health care law’s individual mandate could eventually make it into the GOP’s tax overhaul. 

The Texas Republican released a substitute amendment Monday that the Ways and Means Committee adopted on a party-line vote that did not include the mandate repeal or any health care changes. 

But Brady told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that he’s asked for an updated cost estimate on repealing the individual mandate, indicating he won’t make a final decision until he sees that. 

While getting rid of the mandate eliminates a revenue source, past cost estimates have shown it would raise revenue overall because fewer people buying insurance means they would have more income to be taxed and the government would provide less premium tax subsidies to help individuals pay for insurance.

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President Donald Trump and conservative House Republicans are pushing for it to be included. Members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday discussed the idea of using revenue from the mandate repeal to make some of the individual tax benefits retroactive to the start of 2017.

“I have been asked to consider it, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Brady said of repealing the mandate. 

Brady spent most of the program Tuesday defending provisions that are in the bill, like limiting the mortgage interest deduction for new homes to interest paid on the first $500,000 of principal, repealing the state and local income tax deduction and its intersection with rules on small businesses' pass-through income, and repealing the adoption tax credit. 

In his defense, the chairman offered no signal that he was willing to change any of those provisions. 

Brady, a father of two adopted children, said he doesn’t think the current credit is effective, saying, “It doesn't help a lot of families.” 

Tax writers are discussing whether they can create a more effective incentive that would help people who adopt through a church or other local organizations rather than just the expensive international agencies, he said. 

The Ways and Means chairman suggested changes to the bill are possible as the committee continues its markup through Thursday. 

“We’ll work to continue to improve it at every step, including as we send it to the House floor,” Brady said. 

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