Having punted twice on Obamacare, The Senate Republicans have decided to try to redeem themselves by including a repeal of the individual mandate, which states that everyone must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The mandate has forced millions of people who are not on an employer or government health insurance plan to buy policies on the exchanges that are expensive and do not fit their individual health needs. How can the Senate include such a provision in a Tax Reform Bill? One can blame or credit the United States Supreme Court.

National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius

From the moment that President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, legal challenges to the act were filed and started to make their way through the court system. One of those suits, National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, contended that the individual mandate was not a proper implementation of the commerce clause or the necessity and proper clause of the United States Constitution. In layperson’s language, the federal government cannot require an American to buy a product just because she or he resides in the United States.

In a five to four ruling, the Supreme Court agreed. However, in a creative interpretation of the law, the majority of the Court, consisting of the four liberal justices plus Chief Justice John Roberts declared that the individual mandate constituted a tax, which Congress had the power to impose.

The ruling seemed absurd on its face, but since the Supreme Court ruled, so the individual mandate stood.

How much will eliminating the individual mandate save?

In its struggle to craft a tax reform bill that would fit the limits on the deficit, Senate Republicans noted that if they eliminated the individual mandate, hundreds of billions of dollars would be saved by the federal government.

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In one fell swoop, the Republicans will have delivered on two promises they made to the voters, eliminating the guts of Obamacare and reforming the tax code.

Of course, the tax bill has to pass both houses of Congress before all this becomes law. The difficulties that the Republicans have passing anything sweeping still exist.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine is already airing doubts. The gambit could blow up just as the last two attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare did.

Still, the Senate Republicans, at least most of them, have to be given some credit for some outside the box thinking where it comes to fulfilling their promises. The Democrats are, understandably, howling in frustration. No matter how often Obamacare repeal and replace gets beaten back, the thing keeps coming up. And the effort only has to succeed once.