Senate GOP wants to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate in tax reform bill

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon on July 11, 2017, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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WASHINGTON -- Senate Republican leaders said Tuesday that they are intent on repealing the individual mandate requirement under "Obamacare" as part of their tax bill.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters on Tuesday: "We're going to repeal the tax on poor Americans."

Targeting the mandate in the tax legislation would save an estimated $338 billion over a decade that could be used to help pay for the deep cuts in corporate tax rates and other tax benefits under the plan.

Without being forced to get coverage, fewer people would sign up for Medicaid or buy federally-subsidized private insurance.

GOP senators took up the subject at their weekly lunch meeting, a day after President Donald Trump again prodded Republican lawmakers to include the repeal in their sweeping tax legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism that the tax reform bill would pass the chamber by the end of the year with the repeal of the individual mandate wrapped in. 

President Donald Trump plans an in-person appeal to lawmakers as the proposal faces a crucial vote in the House. Underscoring the sharp political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly a year in office, the president will meet with House Republicans on Thursday ahead of an expected vote on the tax overhaul legislation.

Promoted as needed relief for the middle class, the House and Senate bills would deeply cut corporate taxes, double the standard deduction used by most Americans, and limit or repeal completely the federal deduction for state and local property, income and sales taxes.

McConnell on Roy Moore

McConnell also said that President Trump called him from Vietnam to talk about Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate running in Alabama, who faces a slew of sexual misconduct accusations. McConnell reiterated that Moore should step aside and said that he is not fit to serve in Senate.

McConnell was also asked if he believes President Trump's accusers the same way he believes Roy Moore's accusers. 

"Look, we're talking about the situation in Alabama. And I'd be happy to address that if there are any further questions," he said.

CBS News' John Nolen and Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.