WASHINGTON — A growing list of purple-and red-state senators have come out for postponing or delaying the tax penalty for failure to comply with the individual mandate of the new healthcare law. Colorado’s two senators have made feints in the direction of their colleagues, but have not joined them.
Spokespeople for Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet did not return a voicemail and email message for comment about a key tax provision of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
Last Thursday, Sen.Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said the tax penalty for not complying with the individual mandate should be extended until May 31 “to make up for the time that’s been lost while” the federal site for the insurance plans under Obamacare was essentially shut down.
Earlier, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) came out for a longer postponement of the tax, telling FoxNews “(f)or one year, there should be no fines.”
Michelle Nunn, a Democratic Senate candidate in Georgia, also has endorsed postponing the tax penalty.
Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy political editor of The Rothenberg Political Report, in an interview noted that Hagan and Manchin are “credible senators. They have opened the door for others to get on board.”
A White House spokesperson referred to comment spokesman Josh Earnest made to reporters last Friday. “What we’re focused on right now is to improve the website,” Earnest said.
The 2010 law requires all Americans to buy a health insurance plan by March 31 or pay an “individual shared responsibility fee.” An uninsured single adult will need to pay a tax of $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, and $675 in 2016. He or she will need to pay a tax of half that amount for each uninsured child under his or her care.
Last Thursday, Udall and Bennet joined eight of their Senate Democratic colleagues in calling for an unspecified delay in the enrollment or shopping period for Obamacare. “As long as substantial technical glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to enroll people in insurance plans,” they wrote to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of overseeing the health-care law.
The comments and letters from Democratic senators highlight the rapidly shifting politics of Obamacare as the error-filled rollout of healthcare.gov enters its fourth week. As recently as two weeks ago, Senate Democrats were unanimous in resisting Republican requests to delay the implementation of the healthcare law for a year. Now a handful are calling for delays.
Changing the date of the implementation of the tax hike would influence the law substantially. Obamacare represents the 10th largest tax hike in percentage terms since 1950, according to blogger Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine.
Although most of the taxes in the new law will be generated from high-income earners enrolled in Medicare, the individual mandate will raise $17 billion from 2015 to 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Gonzales said Udall and Bennet are not in “imminent danger” of losing re-election in 2014 and 2016 respectively, so they do not need to endorse a delay or postponement of the tax hike. He said the number of people who would face the tax hike is unclear, but added that Obamacare is “moving from a theory to a reality.”