Speaker Paul Ryan says Senate will have to take lead on scrapping Obamacare individual mandate

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday put the burden on the Senate to scrap Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of a tax reform bill.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Ryan suggested that his members could get behind eliminating the provision. However, he said the House will not do so in the bill it hopes to pass Thursday. Instead, it will wait to address it in a conference committee with the Senate, he said.

In a revised bill released Tuesday night, the Senate added an effective repeal of the law requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Senators say it will save more than $300 billion to use toward making tax cuts compliant with Senate budget rules.

Ryan did not outright say the House would back such a measure, but he noted that his members have voted to repeal the mandate in the past.

“We’ve had the House votes to do that. We passed our repeal of the individual mandate back in May,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “But we never had the votes in the Senate. So what we didn’t want to do is make tax reform harder than it already is.”

“But it really is whether or not the Senate has the votes for this or not. So, we’re seeing what the Senate can do. If the Senate can get it through committee, if they can get it through the floor, then we’ll meet them in conference and we’ll assess at that time,” Ryan added.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Katie Kramer | CNBC
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

Eliminating the mandate, a key part of President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law, could have far-reaching effects in the United States. It could lead to 13 million fewer people with health insurance by 2027, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.

It is also expected to increase in average Obamacare premiums.

The Senate bill change Tuesday sparked even more criticism from Democrats, who are expected to oppose the tax plan in a unified bloc.

“They’re cutting taxes on the wealthy and taking health care from millions and raising premiums on millions of others all to reduce taxes on the rich,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

House Republicans aim to pass their tax plan without the mandate repeal on Thursday. Asked if the GOP has the votes, Ryan said Wednesday that “we like where we are.”

The Senate Finance Committee hopes to approve its bill this week. Republicans then want to pass the plan out of the full Senate during the week after Thanksgiving.

Once both bills pass, Republicans can reconcile the differences in a conference committee.

Lawmakers will have to compromise on multiple differences, including the treatment of state and local tax deductions. The Senate wants to eliminate those deductions, while the House wants to keep up to $10,000 in property tax deductions.

The House does not want to lose the votes of lawmakers who represent high-tax blue states, which benefit from the provisions.

Ryan on Wednesday called some type of state and local deduction “necessary” to making sure those blue states also get tax relief under the plan.

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