GOP leadership is likely breathing a sigh of relief after hearing Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is on board with the more controversial provision of their tax reform plan. In an op-ed for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, she wrote why she supports the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate.
I have always supported the freedom to choose. I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed. That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception and also why I cosponsored a bill to repeal the individual mandate tax penalty starting as early as 2013. And that is why I support the repeal of that tax today. (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)
Sounds reasonable, but her "yes" vote is surprising. After all, Murkowski caused headaches for the Republican leadership earlier this year when she helped derail legislation to repeal Obamacare. Murkowski drew the ire of many conservatives when she, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) sunk the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare in part to protect Planned Parenthood funding.
"The issue of family planning services, cancer screenings, and women care probably does resonate with us more than it does with our male colleagues, and to me it was so unfair to single out one Medicaid provider and say to women in particular, ‘You can't choose which health care provider you want to go to,'” Collins explained in their joint interview with CNN's Dana Bash.
Murkowski also addressed those prior votes in her op-ed. The skinny repeal bills went "far beyond the fundamental problems presented by the ACA and would have unnecessarily taken away access to care from those who need it most," she argues.
It appears concern for her home state had something to do with her decision on the new Obamacare provision in the tax reform effort. "Alaskans pay the highest price for premiums in the country," she notes.
Tax reform passed in the House and the Senate Finance Committee last week, with a floor vote expected in the next 10 days. One Republican senator, Ron Johnson (WI), is a "no."
Republicans can't afford another defector.