Employers with 50 or more full-time workers got a pre-Fourth of July holiday gift from the Obama administration Tuesday when it delayed enforcing parts of the new health care law requiring them to provide health insurance or pay significant penalties.
Sensing blood in the water, Republicans on Capitol Hill and conservative groups across the country are celebrating what they consider the bigger gift and the inevitably endgame of the announcement: the unraveling of the entire Obamacare law.
“That the Obama administration is putting off this job-killing requirement on employers, but not individuals and families, shows how deeply flawed the president’s signature domestic policy achievement is,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. “…The only reasonable recourse is to fully repeal the law."
House GOP leaders put out a joint statement, taking issue with the administration’s decision to grant businesses a reprieve while maintaining requirements that individuals buy insurance or face IRS fines.
“The administration has been busy granting waivers, delays, and special carve outs from the burdens of Obamacare to special interests and those with Washington lobbyists, but the American people keep getting left behind,” they said. “The president owes the American people an answer: why does he think businesses deserve a one-year delay from the mandates in Obamacare, but middle-class families and hardworking Americans don’t?”
The statement was issued by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.
The Obama administration announcement, made by a high-ranking Treasury Department official Tuesday afternoon, puts off penalties for businesses that don’t comply until 2015.
Initial reports about the delay interpreted it as an implicit acknowledgment that the government is not prepared to implement the law and that it would be too harmful to the economy and would end up becoming a liability for Democrats in the 2014 elections.
But Obamacare’s die-hard opponents also view the delay as the beginning of a domino effect – a desperate response that will set off the collapse of the entire law. Conservative experts tracking the law and its implementation say it provides no legal basis for the administration to put off any of its mandates.
“The IRS’s unilateral decision to delay the employer mandate is the latest indication that we do not live under a rule of law, but under a Rule of Rulers who write and rewrite laws at whim, without legitimate authority, and otherwise compel behavior to suit their needs,” Cato’s Michael Cannon wrote Wednesday in a blog post.
Congress, Cannon pointed out, gave neither the IRS nor the president any authority to delay the imposition of the employer mandate. Instead, Congress included several provisions clearly requiring the law to take place in 2014.
Meanwhile, the law’s supporters worry the latest delay will only advance the narrative that the administration will not be ready for October, when Americans will begin enrolling in the health law’s new marketplace exchanges.
The setback is particularly troubling because the employer mandate is considered easy to implement compared with the more complicated areas of the law — such as calculating premium subsidies.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, insists the administration is simply trying to respond to businesses that asked for more time to comply.
“…We are working hard to adapt and to be flexible in employer and insurer reporting as we implement the law,” she wrote Tuesday in a post on the White House blog, arguing that the administration is “staying the course” toward fulfilling other aspects of the law.
The administration, she insisted, is still “on target” to open health insurance exchanges Oct. 1 where individuals and small business can compare coverage options from each plan before making their decision.
Republicans were quick to point out Obama’s statements before Tuesday’s delay – that the law’s implementation is on the right track in the face of prior criticism.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., circulated comments Obama made at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif., on June 7.
“But since everybody has been saying how it’s not going to happen, I think it’s important for us to recognize and acknowledge this is working the way it’s supposed to,” Obama said then.
The president had previously predicted possible bumps in the road in the law’s implementation, even has he urged more young people and Hispanics to enroll in the plan.
“Quality, affordable care is not some earned privilege – it’s a right,” he said during the same remarks at the Fairmont Hotel.