President Barack Obama’s decision to delay enforcement of the employer health mandate last week had GOP leaders crying foul Tuesday and pushing for a broader repeal of the health care law.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blistered Obama for failing to follow his duty to enforce the laws passed by Congress — even those McConnell opposes, such as the Affordable Care Act.
“For now, at least, it is the law. And it is the president’s constitutional duty to enforce the law. Yet instead of fulfilling his basic duty of his office, the president ... seems to believe he gets to decide who is subject to the law ... and who gets a pass,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor.
McConnell said it’s not the first time Obama has done this.
“He did it with immigration. He did it with welfare work requirements. And he did it with the [National Labor Relations Board] when he took it upon himself to tell another branch of government when it was in recess,” McConnell said.
House Republican leaders, meanwhile, pledged to hold votes later this month on repealing the individual mandate as well as the employer mandate.
“I never thought I’d see the day where the White House and the president came down on the side of big business, but left the American people out in the cold as far as this health care mandate is concerned,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said. “We as House Republicans are not going to sit still for that.”
Cantor said the House would vote to repeal the individual mandate “because it’s just not fair to sit here and impose on the people of this country this mandate while letting businesses off free. ... The House will respond this month to correct that injustice.”
Like many other GOP repeal efforts, however, it’s hard to see how this one becomes law.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the decision, saying the health care law “needs to be implemented in a flexible way.” Carney said the decision to delay the enforcement of the employer mandate would not have a significant effect on the implementation of the law next year.
He defended the individual mandate, saying it “provides built-in flexibility to ensure that those who cannot afford coverage are not punished.” And he mocked Republicans for failing to come up with an alternative, noting that a bill earlier this year pushed by Cantor was “eviscerated” by conservatives.
Leaders also sent Obama a letter asking for a legal justification of the decision as well as the expected impacts of the decision on the economy and the federal budget.
They also questioned why the administration did not at the same time delay the individual mandate requiring people to pay a tax penalty if they fail to buy health insurance.
“We agree with you that many of the provisions in the law cannot be implemented within the current time frame; but we strongly disagree with you that time will ever remedy these predictable consequences of the law,” the leaders and committee chairmen wrote.
Republicans last week said the decision was part of a disturbing trend of the president deciding which laws to enforce and which to ignore, and they questioned whether he was abusing his discretion under the Constitution.