The House passed legislation Wednesday to delay Obamacare’s coverage mandates for employers and individuals. The move comes in response to the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to delay the employer mandate until 2015, conveniently beyond the upcoming midterm elections. The individual mandate, perhaps the law’s most central (and most controversial) provision, remains on track to take effect in 2014.
The employer-mandate delay, which would essentially codify the president’s unilateral action into law, passed overwhelming by a vote of 264 to 161, with 35 Democrats voting yes. The president has already threatened to veto the bill, calling it ”unnecessary.”
The individual-mandate delay passed 251 to 174, with 22 Democrats voting yes. The vote could become a political weapon for Republicans, as they are likely to accuse Democrats of protecting businesses from Obamacare’s onerous provisions, but refusing to extend those same protections to individuals and families.
The passage of both bills is a victory for House leaders, who were seeking to capitalize on the administration’s decision, and other signs of weakness with respect to the president’s signature health-care law. Earlier this week, the heads of three major labor unions sent a letter to Democratic leaders warning that unless it significant changes are made, Obamacare will “destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”
“It is now explicitly clear to people across political lines that promises were made and now broken, and ObamaCare is not working,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said prior to the votes. “This is the direction we need to take and this is common ground.”
Some conservatives, meanwhile, had expressed opposition to the idea of a partial delay of the mandates, insisting that Republicans should not accept anything less than full repeal. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), however, told National Review Online that delaying the mandates would ultimate help the GOP repeal the law in its entirety. ”The only way to reduce healthcare costs is to delay Obamacare until we can repeal,” Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said on the House floor. “We owe it to the American people to give them the same treatment the president has given to corporate America.”
Representative Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) proudly announced his votes to delay both mandates, calling Obamacare “the worst law Congress has passed since Prohibition.”
Immediately following the votes, Senate GOP leaders called on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to take up the bills in the Senate.