Republicans may have lost Susan Collins on tax reform

Good morning from Augusta. Republicans in the U.S. Senate have altered their tax reform plan to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all Americans have health coverage or face a penalty. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins doesn’t like that.

The Maine Republican isn’t saying that’ll make her vote against tax reform (yet), but it makes the path toward ‘yes’ harder. The moderate Collins has already helped kill two of her party’s efforts to repeal the health care law this year. But she has been open-minded on tax reform, joining with Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, for a Biddeford forum last week on the subject. But on Wednesday, Collins told MSNBC that she didn’t think linking tax reform with the so-called individual mandate is “a good idea from either the political or policy perspective,” though she supports lower taxes and hasn’t made a decision on the ever-changing Senate tax proposal.

Getting rid of the individual mandate would unravel the already beleaguered health care law. The individual mandate has been the most unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act. In 2016, the IRS said the average penalty paid was $470. But it’s also one of the law’s linchpins. Without it, people who are mostly healthy wouldn’t buy insurance and costs would be higher for everyone else. The Congressional Budget Office has said scrapping it would cause 13 million more people to be uninsured by 2027 and that average individual premiums would rise by 10 percent relative to baseline projections. Healthier people would be less likely to buy insurance, leading to higher premiums and that rise would keep others from buying plans.

But that narrow concern isn’t the only reason that Collins is skeptical of the plan. Collins told MSNBC that the impact on premiums from scrapping the mandate would outweigh the current penalties. She said it also endangers a bipartisan Affordable Care Act stabilization bill that she supports. However, she also opposes a Senate provision that would repeal a deduction taxpayers state and local taxes and a provision in the House tax reform bill that would eliminate a deduction for medical expenses. The House plan goes to a vote today. Collins called tax reform “a moving target,” but it’s clear that Republicans have work to do to get her vote.

CorrectionAn earlier version of this item said the Senate plan would keep the state and local tax deduction. It would end it.

LePage in Texas for RGA event

Gov. Paul LePage is in Texas through today and heard the vice president’s tax reform pitch yesterday. The governor’s office confirmed that LePage was in Austin on Wednesday attending the Republican Governors Association’s annual conference. Vice President Mike Pence attended as well, promising “a decisive step” to cut taxes by year’s end, according to the Texas Tribune. The RGA’s event ends today. Here’s the governor’s soundtrack (and how we hope he got there).

Poliquin: No more Moore

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin joined a growing crowd of Republicans denouncing Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. Moore is at the center of allegations of sexual misdeeds and on Tuesday, Collins called for Moore’s ouster. On Thursday, Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, released the following statement: “It is now clear that these allegations are credible and I believe Roy Moore should drop out of the race.” There is no indication so far that Moore, who maintains his innocence, plans to do so.

Reading list

  • Poliquin continues to make the case for a bill to allow worm and shellfish harvesters to work at Acadia National Park. If successful, the park would be only the fourth in the country to allow commercial harvesters. In testimony Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Poliquin argued that traditional access to the tidal flats should be preserved. Independent Sen. Angus King is another supporter of the bill, which would go to the full House and Senate if it survives the committee process.
  • Former mayor jumps into governor’s race. John Jenkins, a former mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn and a former state senator, filed with the Maine Ethics Commission to run as a privately financed independent. Jenkins, who was a write-in candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial election, is one of three independents who have declared candidacies so far.
  • A fire has taken down much of the former Lincoln paper mill. The fire destroyed one building and heavily damaged another on the eastern side of the 387-acre Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC site. A second fire at the other end of the property destroyed a large warehouse. The mill closed in September 2015 after entering bankruptcy protection. A salvage company was working on the site when the fires started.
  • Arena football is coming to Portland. No deal has been signed but the preliminary plan is for the team to play at the Cross Insurance Arena. Portland will be among several cities gaining new teams, according to the National Arena League. The arena football season runs from April to August.

Yes, Gronk, you are the party. Remember, you are also on the job.

We’re sort of on catch-up here at the Daily Brief but apparently the New England Patriots football team will play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Mexico City.

Rob Gronkowski, the lovable Pats’ tight end who has taken on a party boy celebrity profile off the field, was asked if he had any message for football fans in Mexico.

“Yo soy fiesta, baby,” was his response. The Daily Brief squad is also catching up on our Spanish so we had to look it up. That means “I am party (baby).”

We’re not sure if that translation is totally accurate but Gronk clearly knew what he was saying. We just hope yo soy some bueno catches too, Gronk. Here’s your soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.