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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Reaction to new ObamaCare delay

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 26, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: Last night brought us yet another delay of ObamaCare, another deadline made meaningless. You know, he hasn't put enough loopholes into the law already, but the administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. What the hell is this, a joke?

HARRY REID, D – NV, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The joke, I say to my dear friend, John Boehner, is him having more than 60 votes over there to terminate ObamaCare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sniping at each other over a new extension for some people to sign up for ObamaCare. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard from The Hill newspaper, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Well, the ObamaCare administration reversing course again, saying that it's going to give people more time. If they have had problems signing up, they can go beyond the March 31st deadline to sign up. And as you just heard from John Boehner, how did they do it? They just have to check a blue box. Honor system, no documentation required. Steve, how big a deal?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, this is no way to run a government. I don't think anybody really thought that the assurances we got from Kathleen Sebelius, from Jay Carney, from other senior members of the administration over the past six weeks, that there would not be such an extension. Nobody took those seriously, did they? I don't think anybody in Washington actually thought, well, they said it, so that means there will be no extensions.

Look, I think this has the potential to do damage to the law, to erode support among Democrats here in Washington, but it also has, I think, potential political ramifications across the country. If you think back to the months before the 2010 election, voters were upset, including independent voters, about not only the substance of what they thought ObamaCare was but also the process. They didn't like the arm twisting, the back scratching, the Louisiana -- what was it, the "cornhusker kickback," the "Louisiana purchase." They didn't like the process.

And I think we're seeing some of the same things now, only people understand the substance of the law. They're being affected by the substance of the law, in some cases on a daily basis, and they're seeing that this process, is as John Boehner said, a complete joke. There is no real law to speak of when you can move the requirements, you can change the dates of implementation. It's just a joke.

WALLACE: But A.B., let's take the other side. If the point of all this is to get people to sign up for insurance and that there have been glitches, and lord knows there have been, why not give people a little more time? We're not talking about months. We're talking about a couple weeks.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: That's what's interesting. They didn't decide this earlier. As Steve points out, they said repeatedly, they really couldn't do this. They couldn't stretch the deadline. They don't want the fat lady to sing. They don't want the enrollment population data to be released. If there's truly a stampede at the last minute and they have to accommodate this surge of new people signing up, that would be great. If those numbers don't turn out with more than 2 million young and less risky consumers in the exchanges, those prices, and everybody knows it, are going to be raised.

That's what they're dealing with. They're providing too much uncertainty for the insurance industry, which is exasperated. And I don't see, even though this is a permanent entitlement, it won't be repealed and could be popular years from now, I don't see this changing and becoming popular with a rattled insurance industry before voters go to the polls in November.

WALLACE: Charles, getting back to Steve's point about process. In Ed Henry's piece he had a sound bite of a CMS spokeswoman saying we don't the statutory -- we don't have the statutory authority to go passed the deadline. Well, apparently, they found it.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No, no. Apparently statutory authority is not required under this presidency to change a statue. This is how it works. It's what the administration decides that morning it wants the law to read, which is sort of comical. This is one of the longest laws in American history, thousands of pages, and you never hear anybody referring to section 706-B, or whatever, because what is written in the law, for all those words, none of them really matter because they get changed arbitrarily after the law is passed.

Look, this is cynicism raised to the level of comedy. They were lying when they said it wouldn't change, the deadline wouldn't change. Everyone knew they were lying. And now nobody is surprised that they're lying. And nobody really cares about it, apparently. I mean, there was one tweet in the press by someone who said, well, the only people who don't want this extension are people who don't want to see adequate numbers of enrollment. No. There's a reason why you have a deadline on enrollment. There's a reason why it's a set period of time, because if you have a system where you don't disqualify people who have preexisting conditions, unless you have a fixed enrollment period, nobody will ever sign up for insurance or pay a premium when they're healthy. They'll wait until they get a cancer diagnosis or fall down the stairs, and at the bottom of the stairs pick up the phone and enroll for their insurance, which of course will send all the companies into bankruptcy. That's why you have to have a deadline, and that's why there was a deadline. But of course, with this administration, there are no deadlines unless the president or Sebelius or somebody else decides that the gig is up.

WALLACE: You know, Steve, I mean, that's precisely why the insurance companies have wanted a deadline and are the people who are most concerned about this, because of the fact that they worry people are just going to wait until they get sick.

HAYES: That's exactly right. Look, we have seen this before with the lifting of other deadlines, the employer mandate and other things. The insurance companies will say, look we need time to actually figure out the rates for next year. We have to do what actuaries do in order to make the law function – to make the law work for us and for everybody.

It even I think goes beyond -- Charles' point is exactly right, but it goes beyond needing the fixed date for the purposes of the practical implementation of the law. You need to have fixed dates because you need to have fixed dates. This is an erosion of the rule of law. And I think we'll all look back and we'll sort of look at how the implementation went, and that's going to be its own story. But I think what we're seeing here is the erosion of the rule of law that will have lasting consequences well beyond the debates about health care.

WALLACE: We have got just time for a yes or no from each of you. Starting with you, Steve, will the individual mandate, the penalty or the tax, if you don't sign up, will that ever be imposed on people?

HAYES: Ever? Yes, but not anytime soon.

WALLACE: This year?

HAYES: No definitely not this year. Absolutely not. No. No mandate.

STODDARD: They admit they don't have a system for collecting the penalty.

KRAUTHAMMER: The mandate doesn't exist anyway because all you have to do to be exempt is to say that you have a hardship. ObamaCare itself can be called a hardship under the regulations of this administration.

WALLACE: You understand the meaning of the word yes or no? Evidently, the answer is no.

KRAUTHAMMER: The answer is, it doesn't exist as of now, so the question itself was invalid.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: We're going to have a delay on that. Next up, the nation's tax collector faces tough questions about the IRS targeting scandal.

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