Mnuchin says ObamaCare mandate in Senate tax bill not a 'bargaining chip'

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday repealing the individual health care mandate is not a “bargaining chip” when trying to get senators on board with tax reform.

“This is all about getting this passed in the Senate, that’s the objective. This isn’t a bargaining chip. The president thinks we should get rid of it, I think we should get rid of it—it’s an unfair tax on poor people. To think that you put a penalty on people who can’t afford to buy medical policies is just fundamentally unfair, that’s what this is all about,” Mnuchin told Chris Wallace in an exclusive interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Republicans’ tax reform legislation currently includes repealing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, which caused some lawmakers to express concerns over the plan, arguing that getting rid of the mandate could lead to higher health insurance premiums for some middle-income Americans, therefore negating tax cuts they’d receive.

Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said adding a provision from ACA, otherwise known as ObamaCare, into the Senate bill that is not in the House legislation was the “biggest mistake.”

“I hope that will be dropped or that bills that have been introduced … will be adopted to mitigate the impact of those provisions,” Collins told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

Other Republican senators not fully on-board with the tax reform plan include Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Bob Corker from Tennessee, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jeff Flake and John McCain, both from Arizona.