Rep. Bruce Poliquin said today he will co-sponsor a bill that would ax one of the Affordable Care Act’s most crucial and hated elements, a week after he voted against repealing the law, which miffed some in his conservative base.

The Republican’s move, announced in a statement on Tuesday, confirms what we’ve known all along: Poliquin wants to roll back the law that President Barack Obama and Democrats have championed, but he’s threading a needle on it.

Poliquin defended his vote against repealing the law by saying Republicans need to have a “free-market” law ready to replace it.

But on Tuesday, he said he will “continue to fight to eliminate the parts of ObamaCare that are limiting choices for our families and killing jobs.”

The bill Poliquin backs would repeal the “individual mandate” piece of the law, which forces some to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. He has also come out against the law’s medical device tax and a rule that punishes employers that don’t offer health care to employees working 30 hours or more per week.

The mandate is intended to balance the law by getting healthier people to enroll, lowering the costs of subsidizing policies for poorer and sicker people.

But Republicans don’t like it, and neither does the public: 64 percent of those polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation in December found it unfavorable.

The Congressional Budget Office said in 2012 that getting rid of the mandate would lower the federal deficit, but it would also make it less likely that younger, healthier people would be covered, leaving 16 million more people uninsured by 2021 and raising costs for people in the federal exchanges.

So, while Poliquin didn’t vote to ax the law now, he’s still going after its core elements, however unlikely it is that effort to roll back the law fly under a Democratic president. That should placate some on the right.

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