House Republicans confident about tax reform vote, as Senate moves to repeal individual mandate

Aiming at a vote on Thursday in the full House on a sweeping GOP tax reform package, Republican leaders expressed confidence today that they will be able to overcome opposition within Republican ranks to some of the tax details, and muster enough support for a signature agenda item of both the GOP and President Donald Trump, as Senate Republicans vowed to add a provision to the bill that would repeal the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate under the Obama health law.

"We feel very good where we are," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, following a closed door meeting with GOP lawmakers. "This is not just a tax cut, this is a jobs bill, it's a fairness bill."

Ryan's assessment came after an initial vote count this week by Republicans seemed to indicate that the tax reform bill was not going to run off the rails later this week.

"All I can tell you is, I had my card, and it was a perfect score," said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) of his own whip count check on the House floor. "I'm very confident we're going to have the votes we need. Very confident."

"So far, I think things are moving along nicely," said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), another one of the GOP vote counters.

"People right now are hoping that things get better," Speaker Ryan said. "This bill will make things better."

There are still Republicans in the House who are expected to vote against the tax bill as currently formulated, especially worried about the impact of changes to deductions related to state and local taxes.

It's still possible some changes might be made - but top Republicans were cautioning reporters not to expect anything more than some tweaks.

But over in the Senate, major changes were the talk of Tuesday, as Republicans said their bill would be amended to add in a provision that zeroes out the tax penalty for those who don't buy health insurance, under the individual mandate in the Obama health law.

"We're optimistic that inserting the mandate repeal would be helpful," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The change on the individual mandate is something that President Trump has called for in recent days, and has strong support from GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate.

"The mandate repeal is a promise we all made and we should keep," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Twitter.

As one would expect, Democrats were outraged at the late change by the GOP.

"It's a back door attempt to get TrumpCare back," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

"It's just these unrelenting efforts to find ways to take health insurance from people in our states," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

The change on the individual mandate was evidently just one of a series of changes being made to the Senate bill by Republicans, as work in the Senate Finance Committee ended hours earlier than anticipated, as Senators waited for a revised version of the GOP tax reform measure to be unveiled.

"It's reckless haste," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

But as in the House, Democrats don't have the votes to stop the GOP tax reform push, unless a small number of Republicans rebel.

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