On Wednesday, the House approved two bills (HR 2667, HR 2668) that would delay the employer and individual mandates under the Affordable Care Act, despite a veto threat from the White House, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 7/17).
Republican lawmakers have sensed an opportunity to delay the ACA's individual mandate following the Obama administration's recent decision to delay the employer mandate until 2015 (California Healthline, 7/17). The Obama administration and Democrats have downplayed the potential effects of the delay, saying that the mandate would only affect about 4% of employers (Johnson, Washington Post, 7/17). However, since the White House's announcement, House Republicans have adopted a populist tone, criticizing the White House for giving businesses relief from a mandate but not individual U.S. residents (California Healthline, 7/17).
The House voted 264-161 to approve HR 2667 -- which would codify the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate for one year -- with the support of 35 Democrats. Members then voted 251-174 to pass HR 2668 -- which would delay the individual mandate until 2015 -- with the support of 22 Democrats. Only one Republican lawmaker -- Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) -- voted against both measures (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/17). The votes mark the 38th and 39th time the House has voted to repeal or change all or part of the ACA (Lawder, Reuters, 7/17).
Under provisions set by the House Committee on Rules, the text of the employer mandate measure was added to the individual mandate bill upon passage in the House, allowing the Senate to hold a single vote on the legislation. However, it is unlikely to reach the floor in the Democratic-controlled Senate (Khatami, CQ Roll Call, 7/17).
During the debate on the House floor, Democrats criticized both measures, calling them a waste of time, the Post reports.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "These bills are going nowhere." He added, "This is a game. This is political messaging. Nothing more, nothing less" (Washington Post, 7/17).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the bills "political stunts" and "[a]n excuse for a legislative agenda." She added, "It is not worthy of this House of Representatives, it is not deserving of the respect of the American people" ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/17).
However, Republican lawmakers argued that the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate and not the individual mandate is unfair to U.S. residents. According to the Times, the votes gave Republicans a chance to reiterate their opposition to the individual mandate and provided them with the rare opportunity to portray President Obama as favoring businesses over individuals and families.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) said that it is "unfair" and "wrong" that "[u]nder the president's policy, million-dollar corporations with access to the White House can be excused from Obamacare, but the struggling family gets left out" (New York Times, 7/17).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) noted that "[f]amilies and individuals are already struggling in this Obama economy." He added, "Don't these hardworking Americans deserve the same relief the administration is giving to the business community?" ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/17).
Meanwhile, other GOP lawmakers questioned the legality of the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate. Rep. Tim Griffith (R-Ark.), author of HR 2667, said his bill would "make what the president did legal." He added, "I think this is one where Democrats and Republicans can come together, agree with the president that it's a burden and postpone this" (Memoli, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/17).
In addition, some Republican lawmakers -- such as Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) -- used the debate to continue their criticism of the ACA. Kline said, "The delay of the employer mandate is the latest confirmation of the fatally flawed nature of Obamacare and the need to dismantle it" (Reuters, 7/17).