House Republicans have scheduled votes Wednesday on a couple of bills responding to President Obama's decision to delay two key elements of the Affordable Care Act. But unless they count their votes carefully, they could end up strengthening Obama and his health care law. The first vote is on Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin's Authority for Mandate Delay Act, which would formally ratify what many Republicans believe was Obama's illegal decision to delay the employer mandate for a year. This bill is expected to pass easily, as many House Democrats are eager to give Obama all the legal cover he needs to implement the law as he sees fit.
House Republicans hope that, after voting for the Griffin bill, Democrats will be embarrassed by voting against a second bill, Indiana Rep. Todd Young's Fairness for American Families Act. Young's legislation would extend Obama's employer mandate delay to the requirement that all individuals must purchase health insurance as well. "Is it fair for the president to give American businesses an exemption from the health law's mandates, without giving the same break to individuals and families across the country?" asked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a press conference last week. "Hell no, it isn't," he said in an uncharacteristically stern moment.
But while the employer mandate delay is almost sure to pass, the individual mandate delay vote is very much in doubt thanks to conservative opposition from groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action. "Repealing only some portions of the statute will allow other portions more fully to take root," The Heritage Foundation's Chris Jacobs wrote Monday. "The best delay — and the only effective one — is a full defunding of the statute, one that forces all federal bureaucrats to put down their pens and stop crushing the American economy with Obamacare mandates and regulations."
Conservative opposition to the individual mandate-delay legislation could create a dream scenario for Obama. The House of Representatives would be ratifying his selective delayed implementation of Obamacare, while failing to extend that delay to millions of individual Americans and families.
A better strategy would be to skip stand-alone bills that have little chance of passing the Senate anyway, and instead focus Republican efforts on the Sept. 30, 2013, deadline for passing new spending authorization legislation to keep the federal government open.
Republicans should work to include language in the next continuing resolution that would prevent all Obamacare health insurance exchange subsidies from going forward until, as an absolute minimum, a credible income-verification system is in place to determine who is eligible for those subsidies. This is a good-government, common-sense policy that comes with a ready made slogan: "No subsidization without verification." Obama is desperate to get the American people hooked on his health insurance subsidies. They are the centerpiece of his signature health care law. If Republicans can delay these funds from being spent, they will have significantly increased the chances for full repeal in the future.