Published July 18, 2013
The House voted Wednesday to delay key components of ObamaCare, in a bid by emboldened Republicans to chip away at the law after the administration acknowledged new problems with its implementation.
Republican leaders swiftly organized the votes after the administration, in early July, said it would delay until 2015 a requirement that businesses with 50 or more workers provide insurance coverage or pay a penalty.
The House voted 264-161 for a measure that would do exactly that. But they also voted 251-174 for a measure that would delay the individual mandate -- the requirement on individuals to buy health insurance -- for a year as well.
Republicans argue that both delays are necessary. While they endorsed the delay for businesses, House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP lawmakers say it's unfair to deny everyone else a similar reprieve.
"It is not fair that the president is choosing to protect big business from ObamaCare, but not hardworking American taxpayers," Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said on the House floor ahead of the vote.
She also said the delay was an admission that "this is a trainwreck, and it is not ready for prime-time."
But Democrats sharply disagreed, and accused Republicans of wasting time with yet another set of votes against the health care law. Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., said Republicans weren't simply trying to delay the requirements. "It is their intention to destroy the Affordable Care Act ... to do away with it, to annihilate it entirely," Crowley said.
President Obama has already threatened to veto the bills.
The votes marked the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the program since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011.
It is unlikely the Democrat-controlled Senate will advance the latest bills. However, Republicans sense an opening to potentially erode the law, and the administration was planning to step up its public defense of the law in response.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama on Thursday will draw attention to the 8.5 million consumers who have received an average consumer rebate of about $100. Carney also highlighted reports that some states are already anticipating lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act.
"Competition and transparency in the marketplaces, plus the hard effort by those committed to making the law work, are leading to affordable, new and better choices for families," Carney said.
The goal of the health care law was to provide coverage to nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance in a massive overhaul of the current system. Just months before enforcement, the Obama administration announced a one-year delay in the employer mandate, citing businesses' concerns about the reporting requirements.
"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively," Treasury Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur said in a blog post. "We have listened to your feedback, and we are taking action."
Republicans said that was fresh evidence that the law is unworkable and should be repealed. The GOP also accused the president of favoring businesses over average Americans, who will still be required to carry health insurance starting next Jan. 1 or risk fines.
In an example of strange political bedfellows, Republicans highlighted a letter from three unions to congressional Democratic leaders criticizing the health care law and demanding that the administration address problems stemming from the law.
Specifically, the unions -- International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and UNITE-HERE -- complained that the law's requirements have created an incentive for employers to cut workers' hours to avoid providing health care coverage.
The law created a new definition of full-time workers, those putting in 30 hours or more.
"Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios," the union leaders wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.