Although most Republican lawmakers say they are happy to see parts of Obamacare put off and would like to see the entire law repealed, they are growing increasingly frustrated with the president’s unilateral changes to regulations when he deems them inconvenient or unworkable.
The repeated presidential massaging of the health care law - the latest another delay of the employer mandate - is illegal they say because the Constitution grants Congress the sole power to modify or change laws.
“It's the president's responsibility to enforce the laws that Congress makes and that he signs into law, but this president and this administration enforce the laws they choose to enforce and ignore the laws they want to ignore, for political expedience,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“This is the very definition of lawlessness and something that the American people do not tolerate and will not tolerate, nor should they be required to tolerate,” he added.
The Treasury Department on Monday announced that it would delay until 2016 the employer mandate for companies with between 50 and 99 workers. It marked the second time the administration has pushed back the mandate for employers to obtain insurance for their workers or pay a fine.
The president on Tuesday defended the string of Obamacare delays saying he was simply “smoothing out” the law's implementation.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who sits on the Finance Committee's health care subcommittee, said Republicans are forcing the president to act alone to modify the law because they are dead-set on repealing it and refuse to help improve aspects of it that aren't working.
Cardin recalled the problem-riddled rollout of the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and 2006 and how Democrats ultimately worked with Republicans to fix parts of it even though the vast majority of them had not voted in favor of the measure.
“If Republicans really wanted to sit down and figure out a way to make the law better, we could do that tomorrow,” he told the Washington Examiner.
Republicans countered that Obamacare is much broader than Medicare Part D and Obama is only making the changes because the law is hurting the economy and Congressional Democrats’ re-election prospects.
“It's bad for the millions of Americans who are without jobs, those who are looking for jobs, those who have seen their take-home pay reduced,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who serves as the chairman of the Republican Conference. “And he made a political decision because he knows that the political outlook for Democrats this fall based upon their vote for Obamacare was looking increasingly bleak.”
As long as Democrats control the Senate, however, Republicans have little power to rein in the president's use of executive authority to delay or alter aspects of Obamacare.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was noncommittal when asked Tuesday whether Republicans would challenge some of the president's executive actions in court.
“Well, the issue is always who has standing,” he said. “You know, there are a lot of lawsuits around the country by aggrieved people about various problems, and occasionally we're in a position to join them as amicus.”
Rep. Tom Cole, a Oklahoma Republican and close confidante of Speaker John Boehner, said the judicial branch traditionally has been reluctant to settle turf wars between Congress and the president so Republicans aren't aggressively pursuing that option.
The best thing Republicans can do, he argued, is keep talking about Obama's executive overreach as well as other Obamacare problems and hope they can win control of the Senate come November and repeal the entire bill.
In the meantime, Cole said, the repeated Obamacare delays are hurting chances for cooperation between Republicans and the president on a number of issues, including immigration.
“If he's going to change the [health care] law when it's inconvenient to him, a lot of Republicans are saying what's to stop him from changing any immigration law we agree to and pass?” he told the Washington Examiner.
“It's really hurting his agenda and has already made him ineffective in terms of getting any of his priorities passed in Congress,” said Cole.
White House correspondent Brian Hughes contributed to this report.