Congress is away, but the battle over Republicans’ tax legislation raged on across the weekend.
MICK MULVANEY: WHITE HOUSE IS ‘OK’ WITH DUMPING MANDATE REPEAL FROM BILL — The White House budget chief said Sunday that the administration doesn’t want the emerging Obamacare fight to slow down Republicans’ tax overhaul, even though Trump had called for repealing the individual mandate in the tax bill.
The administration is “OK with taking [mandate repeal] out” of the tax bill if “it becomes an impediment,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
SWING VOTE WATCH: SUSAN COLLINS WANTS MANDATE REPEAL OUT OF TAX BILL — The Maine senator said Sunday that including a provision to strike down Obamacare’s individual mandate was “the biggest mistake” in Senate Republicans’ push to overhaul taxes.
“I hope that will be dropped,” Sen. Susan Collins told ABC’s “This Week,” adding that she wants “to see changes” in the Senate bill and again called for Congress to protect consumers in the fragile individual insurance market.
“I’m worried about the impact on premiums” from repealing the mandate, she added. “And that’s why we’re going to need to pass legislation. And I would like to see that done before we go to the tax bill.”
Collins was among the senators last week who personally lobbied President Donald Trump to support a bill to shore up Obamacare markets if the mandate is repealed, POLITICO’s Jen Haberkorn and John Bresnahan scooped on Friday.
— Meanwhile: Lisa Murkowski says bipartisan ACA fix isn’t ‘precondition’ for her support of tax plan. The Alaska Republican said she still wants the stalled Alexander-Murray bill to pass, especially if the mandate is repealed. But “one should not assume this is a precondition for my support for the tax bill,” Murkowski told POLITICO in a statement on Friday — contrary to an earlier Roll Call report.
Murkowski also said she will take the Thanksgiving holiday to review the tax package “before coming to any conclusion on the legislation.”
IMPACT OF MANDATE REPEAL? — The Congressional Budget Office has projected that rolling it back would save the government $338 billion over a decade but result in 13 million more Americans being uninsured by 2027. However, some experts say that eliminating it might not radically change behavior — or fulfill the dire predictions of spiking premiums and vast increases in uninsured people that economists, health providers and politicians once predicted.
TAX BILL CONSEQUENCES: AUTOMATIC CUTS TO MEDICARE LOOM — Under Congress’s current pay-as-you-go rules, Republicans’ bill would trigger deep cuts to programs like Medicare because the legislation adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit. That means the GOP would need votes from Democrats to avoid a hypothetical doomsday scenario — but Democrats are making no promises they’d help out, POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris reports.
“I think if that were the ultimate outcome, we wouldn’t get blamed for it,” Rep. John Yarmuth, the top Democrat on the House budget panel, told Sarah.
What’s at stake: The automatic cuts would kick in every year for a decade, potentially stinging assistance programs for crop subsidies, the Census Bureau, the hospital insurance trust fund, wetlands conservation, and Customs and Border Protection.
Medicare would be chopped $25 billion per year, CBO estimates.
** A message from UNITE HERE: Donald Trump’s selected candidate to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, is a drug company industry profiteer whose senior role with Eli Lilly during periods of criminal practices and prescription drug price gouging is disqualifying. Learn more about why members of the Senate must #SayNoToAzar. www.saynotoazar.org **
MEMO SAYS DEMOCRATS SHOULD FOCUS ON BILL’s HEALTH CARE EFFECTS — The party’s leading super PACs is urging lawmakers to focus attacks about the GOP tax reform plan on its cuts to health care programs, POLITICO’s Kevin Robillard reports.
Priorities USA, citing polls from Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group and Global Strategy Group, argues Democrats can make the case Republicans are more focused on appeasing donors than helping regular people.
The most potent lines of attack for Democrats include: 1) Noting the proposal would force cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and 2) eliminate medical expense deductions. The lines of attacks make at least 73 percent of likely presidential-year voters feel less favorably about the plan, and at least 61 percent of voters much less favorable.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: PULSE won’t publish from Nov. 23-Nov. 26, but we’ll return on Nov. 27.
THIS IS MONDAY PULSE — Where Washington is winding down and Thanksgiving travel is looming, although your author won’t be going far.
With help from Victoria Colliver (@vcolliver)
CDC TO REORGANIZE FOR ‘INCREASED SYNERGY’ — Director Brenda Fitzgerald on Friday announced a shake-up of the agency, stressing the need to improve the focus on “science, surveillance and service,” your PULSE correspondent scooped on Friday.
Speaking at an all-hands meeting, Fitzgerald said that CDC will refocus around “communities of practice,” with four deputy directors steering the agency’s work. The reorganization will not take effect…