The House has scheduled a Wednesday vote to delay the part of President Obama's health care law requiring Americans to buy health insurance by next year, the latest in a series of symbolic votes in the Republican-run chamber to repeal or curb Obamacare.
All of the 40-some bills — introduced since Republicans took control of the chamber in early 2011 — passed, but were ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The House also Wednesday will vote to delay the requirement that employers with the equivalent of at least 50 full-time workers offer health insurance to their staff or pay a fine. Obama announced in early July the so called employer mandate would be delayed one year until January 2015, but House Republican leaders contend such decisions require formal congressional approval.
"If you're a software company making billions in profits, you're exempt from Obamacare next year," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "But if you're a 28-year-old struggling to pay off your student loans, you're not. ... Is it fair for the president to give American businesses an exemption from his health law's mandates without giving the same break to the rest of America? Hell no."
The votes are designed partly to put Democrats in a political bind. A vote in support of the employer mandate delay could be perceived as admitting the president's health care plan is flawed. Democrats who vote no will be accused by Republicans of going against the president's wishes.
Likewise, Democrats who vote for the employer mandate delay but reject a delay for individuals will be accused by Republicans as favoring big businesses over ordinary working Americans.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., sarcastically said he was "shocked" by the Republican tactic because "they've only been doing this for the last, what, five years?"
"Are [House Republicans] going to make some political hay out of it? They're going to try," Hoyer told reporters during his weekly briefing with reporters Tuesday. "But the American public, I think, understands this is a very large undertaking, at the end of which I think Americans, all Americans, will be better off."
Hoyer said Democrats likely will oppose both bills, saying a vote on the employer mandate delay is redundant because the administration already approved it, while delaying the individual mandate "undermines the protections to literally millions of people."
The Maryland Democrat added the administration "acted wisely" in delaying the employer mandate because it's "more complicated" than the law's provision requiring individuals to buy health insurance.
The administration "want(s) to make sure the information is proper, [that] businesses can get proper information so they are treated in a way consistent with the law," Hoyer told reporters during his weekly briefing with reporters. "They don't feel they have that problem with the individual mandate because it is so much simpler, more straightforward implementation."