AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday to tell reporters in Washington, D.C., that she’s leaning toward voting for fellow Senate Republicans’ proposal to overhaul the federal tax system.
Collins’ support may hinge on a balancing act around health care policy. Her concerns have centered on the Senate tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate — the part of the Affordable Care Act that makes people purchase health insurance or face a penalty. However, The Washington Examiner said Tuesday that Trump promised to back bills stabilizing the health care law if the tax bill passes.
One would be a Collins-sponsored bill to give $2.25 billion annually to states with high-risk pools or reinsurance programs. The other would be a bill backed by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, to reinstate cost-sharing reduction payments halted by Trump’s administration in October.
Collins was pictured in a meeting with the president and other senators on Tuesday. Afterward, The Intercept reported that she said many of her concerns with the bill were “being addressed” and that she was leaning toward supporting it.
In a Tuesday statement, Collins said that while she still would prefer the individual mandate not be in the tax bill, it is “essential that we mitigate the impact on premiums” with those two bills if it is. She was one of three Republicans to kill her party’s bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act in September.
Collins said discussions are ongoing and also focused on keeping a property tax deduction and that the tax bill has the “potential to not only maintain the job growth and market gains we have made this year, but also to continue these positive trends in the future.”
Overall, the Senate’s bill would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and cut income taxes overall, but an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office says it would raise taxes for many families and increase the federal deficit by $1.4 trillion over 10 years.
Republicans have argued the tax cuts could generate enough growth to offset those losses, but Democrats have seized on the package as a debt-financed giveaway to wealthy Americans. The CBO estimates said people making less than $40,000 annually would pay higher taxes after 2021.
It’s unclear how all tax and health care policies would fit together. The CBO has said that scrapping the individual mandate would lead to 13 million more uninsured by 2027 and hike individual premiums by 10 percent, but that the Alexander-Murray bill would cut deficits.
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said Tuesday that “improving this bill will mean saying no to this scam” and implored Collins to “advance bipartisan tax reform.”
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