Murkowski will vote for Senate GOP’s tax plan

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she plans to support the Senate’s controversial tax plan, which includes provisions to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and repeal the Obamacare’s individual mandate, in a message posted to Twitter. A final vote on the bill could happen later this week.

“After thoroughly reviewing the good work of the Finance Committee, I intend to support the reconciliation legislation that is now before the Senate,” she wrote. “The bill before us has a number of features that are very attractive to Alaskans.”

As a defender of the Affordable Care Act, Murkowski had been skeptical of the bill’s inclusion of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to buy insurance, saying other measures should be put in place before Congress considers repealing the unpopular, but key provision of the health care law. Murkowski later backed away from that stance, and Trump has since promised to support a bipartisan fix to bolster the Affordable Care Act and individual insurance marketplaces sometime after the tax bill becomes law.

There’s reason to be skeptical that even that would work.

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office says that even if Trump keeps his promise (he’s already flip flopped on the fix) the impacts of repealing the individual mandate won’t be made up by the proposed fixes. The updated analysis shows premiums would still be expected to increase by as much as 10 percent and 13 million fewer people would have insurance over 10 years. It’s unclear what impact repealing the individual mandate would have on Alaska, which recently instituted a reinsurance program that will see premiums fall by more than 20 percent in 2018.

Murkowski and others have said little about why repealing the insurance mandate needs to be part of the tax plan at this time, but it’s key in bringing some balance the enormous tax cuts (which happen to favor big corporations and the wealthy). The tax bill proposes to add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade, with Republican leadership promising that it’ll be made up by economic growth (this is a key point that could still tie up the effort).

Repealing the mandate is expected to reduce the deficit by about $338 billion over the next decade, though there’s significant concerns that repealing the individual mandate would spike rates and cause more insurers to withdraw from challenged marketplaces, which would leave many people who would like to buy insurance without any option.

Alaska’s other senator, Sen. Dan Sullivan, has already staked out his support of the bill and has been making cable appearances to tout the measure.

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