Thune backs dropping Obamacare mandate in tax plan


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The Senate’s version of tax reform delays a corporate tax rate cut to 2019, while the House version implements that cut next year.
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A proposal to overhaul U.S. tax code could eliminate a mandate that Americans carry health insurance or pay a $695 penalty.

A day after President Donald Trump called for Republicans in Congress to drop the mandate as part of its efforts to reform the tax code, tax writers on the Senate Committee on Finance said they would aim to cut the tax penalty.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican and member of that committee, said he supported the move to eliminate the requirement.

“If the Senate tax reform plan, which represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform and modernize our outdated tax code, repeals Obamacare’s burdensome individual mandate, it would provide additional relief to middle-income South Dakotans beyond what’s already in the legislation,” Thune said in a statement.

More: S.D. delegates tout GOP tax bill, promise savings for middle class

Others were quick to criticize the move, which could free up funds to further cut individual tax rates without affecting the deficit.

But the move would leave 13 million more Americans uninsured over the next decade, a Congressional Budget Office assessment showed.

“Repealing of the individual mandate will also threaten to raise premiums and leave 13 million more Americans without health insurance,” said South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Sam Parkinson.

And it could re-open a tense political debate in the Senate, where moderate Republicans said they worry dropping the mandate would drive up premiums for everyone. House Republicans didn’t include the provision as part of their tax bill, but Thune said he was confident representatives would support it.

“While the plans differ slightly, we are on the same team in this effort and headed for the same end zone,” Thune said.

The House is set to vote on its tax proposal later this week. If the House and Senate approve separate tax reform bills they will consolidate the proposals before advancing them.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 605-370-2493 or email dferguson@argusleader.com

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