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Cotton Calls for Repealing the Individual Mandate through Tax Reform

November 2, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt Tabler (202) 224-2353

Mr. President, today is an important day on our promise to deliver tax relief for America's working families and our businesses, to create more jobs and grow our economy faster.

The House Ways and Means Committee is about to unveil their first draft of the tax-cut bill. That's a good step forward after we both passed our budgets a couple of weeks ago. As we move forward through this process, it's important that we all recognize that tax cuts are a way to let the American people and our businesses keep more of their money, not the government's money, but their money.

We also, though, have to be mindful of the impact it'd have on our staggering national debt of over $20 trillion and rising deficits. So, we can expect the economy to grow at a much healthier rate than it has in recent years if we pass a good tax bill.

But we also need to look for other ways to offset the costs of those tax cuts to a degree. There's been a lot of discussions around here about what I would consider unwise and painful changes to our tax law: eliminating deductions, credits, exclusions, exemptions that are popular and widespread. Some people call that the spinach in addition to the ice cream of tax cuts.

However, I have what I would call maybe a creative idea, a novel idea, but one that I think is gaining momentum in the Senate and in the House. We can repeal the individual mandate of Obamacare and save $300 to $400 billion dollars for the federal government and therefore deliver more tax relief to our families, and our workers, and our businesses. That's not my math. That's the math of the Congressional Budget Office, which has said repeatedly that eliminating the individual mandate of Obamacare would save $300 to $400 billion dollars. That is a lot of tax cuts.

The individual mandate is also the most unpopular part of Obamacare. More than two-thirds of Americans want to see it repealed. The House has voted repeatedly to repeal it. The Senate has voted to repeal it. Even some Democrats have said they want to repeal the individual mandate as well. The first time in our country's history, after all, that the federal government has said you must buy the product of a private company for the mere privilege of being American citizens.

Now, we also know the individual mandate simply has not worked. It was designed to hold down premiums on the Obamacare exchanges. That is not the case. The individual mandate has, despite being in place now for four years, we continue to see premiums spiral out of control.

So, I think it's a pretty reasonable proposal to repeal the most hated part of Obamacare, to help pay for tax cuts the American people want rather than trying to eliminate popular, widely used deductions and credits, exemptions, and exclusions.

Moreover, it allows us to make more of the tax-cuts bill permanent because of the $300 to $400 billion savings over the ten-year period, is just a ten-year period, but it will continue to save money after those ten years. And the crazy way we do our budgeting around here, that allows us to make more of those tax cuts permanent. So, our families and our businesses can have greater predictability to save and invest and grow our economy.

It's also a kind of tax cut for working-class Americans, in its own right. For in IRS data, more than five out of six households that paid the mandate fine last year made less than the median income. They were in the bottom half of income earners. So, what are we doing? We are imposing a fine on the working class and working poor because they can't afford the insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place. That is crazy. And we can do so in a way that makes it easier to pass a tax bill.

I know some of my colleagues around here, especially some of my Republican colleagues, say, "Oh no, we can't go back to health care, it's going to make a tax bill harder to pass." Nonsense, it makes the tax bill easier to pass, easier to pass. Because it helps make the fiscal picture balance, and it helps deliver more tax cuts to our families and businesses back home.

Some of my Democratic colleagues drawing on that same estimate from the Congressional Budget Office will say, "You're going to take health care away from 15 million people." Nonsense. This bill doesn't cut a single dime out of Obamacare, not one penny even. Not one penny taken out of Medicaid, not one penny taken out of the subsidies on the exchanges, not a single regulation change, it simply says the IRS will not fine you if you cannot afford the insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable.

Three to four hundred billion dollars, even in Washington, that's a lot of money. And that's money that is better left in the pockets of America's workers and families and on the financial statements of businesses who are looking to expand their operations, increase their wages, and hire more workers.

So, no this hasn't been part of the tax debate for a long time; this chamber considered repealing the mandate as part of our health care debate. But the Obama administration called the individual mandate a tax. The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld its constitutionality saying it was a tax. The IRS collects it. You pay it on your 1040. That's about the taxiest provision I can think of.

So, let's make a common-sense decision, even if it is a little late in the game here. Repeal the individual mandate, pay for more tax cuts for families and businesses, make a tax bill easier to pass, deliver on the promise that we made to the American people to repeal the most unpopular part of Obamacare, and have a very big victory for the American people. Mr. President, I yield the floor. I note the absence of a quorum.