Topics: Obamacare

Repeal or delay: Will Congress vote on Obama’s deferral of employer mandate?

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President Obama’s decision to delay implementation of the employer mandate, the provision in Obamacare that requires businesses to provide certain kinds of insurance to their employers, strikes Republicans as a gift — but Republicans are “between a rock and a hard place” in considering how they will capitalize on that decision, in part because of the 2014 elections.

One option is to hail the delay as further proof that Obamacare is a bad law in need of repeal. “This is a remarkable acknowledgment by the Obama Administration that ObamaCare is a disaster in progress that will hurt job creators and those looking for work,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in his statement on the matter. “The solution to ObamaCare is not to delay the day when the Internal Revenue Service comes after struggling American businesses who cannot afford to provide Washington mandated health coverage. The solution is to repeal it entirely.”

Republicans were going to say that anyway — that’s been their position from day one — and some GOPers want to do something specific to this decision. It’s tempting to argue that Obama doesn’t have the authority to disregard a law duly passed by Congress, but Republicans aren’t about to force the president to implement Obamacare.

Or, Congress could come behind Obama and vote to delay the mandate. “The president doesn’t have the power to do this, he has to come to Congress,” one Republican Senate aide, willing to discuss the issue on background, told the Washington Examiner. “If he doesn’t like what’s in his own law, fine, but you have to come to Congress to change it.”

Such a vote might force Democrats either to acknowledge that the law isn’t ready for prime-time or vote down President Obama’s latest policy decision.

“The problem is that with the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, it would give vulnerable Democrats a cover vote,” the aide said. “We’d have two votes: one to delay it just for businesses, one to delay it for everyone, and the one for businesses will pass with 60 votes+ and the second one would fail, but it would give 10 [or] 12 Democrats a cover vote, but it still wouldn’t pass.” They’d have to have two votes because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would “never agree to do just the one vote” to delay both the employer mandate and the individual mandate.

Republicans don’t want to give vulnerable, red-state Democrats the ability to claim that they voted in favor of a temporary “repeal” of Obamacare that never had a chance to pass after they voted in favor of the law when it first came up and opposed full repeal earlier this year.

Despite the “vulnerability,” the congressional option is still attractive. “It allows us to talk about Obamacare in a substantive way,” the aide said. “Then we’re not talking about guns and immigration and school loans and climate change and all the stuff that they want us to talk about for this next election. ... [The vote means] Obamacare is now a major issue in 2014.”

“It’s principled, it’s constitutionally sound, it gets us back on the right process, it creates a vote that — it’s a substantive vote on Obamacare that has real repercussions,” the aide continued. “There’s definitely advantages, but there might be a massive disadvantage for us politically if we do that and give Democrats a cover vote on Obamacare.”

Another Republican aide observed that, as a rule, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., takes care not to give vulnerable Democrats the chance to take such “cover votes,” but it remains to be seen how the conference will move.

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