Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said Thursday that he would support a one-year delay in implementing the individual mandate, the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's health care law, as part of larger budget negotiations to avert a government shutdown.
“There’s no way I could not vote for it,” Manchin said at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg News. “It’s very reasonable and sensible.”
House Republican leadership has been mulling a one-year delay in the law as one of many sweeteners for their rank-and-file members who appear unwilling to support any government funding legislation without serious concessions from Democrats. The House GOP also has considered tacking the delay to a bill to raise the debt limit.
Manchin is the first Democrat to announce such a position publicly, and it can't have pleased congressional Democratic leaders or the White House, which already has said the president would not negotiate around the debt limit (or at least tried to convince themselves that that is the case). For Manchin to give this to Republicans could significantly boost their leverage in a series of negotiations this fall where they previously might not have had it.
Manchin cited the one-year delay for corporations in explaining his support for putting off implementation of the individual mandate.
“Don’t put the mandate on the American public right now,” Manchin said. “Give them at least a year. If you know you couldn’t bring the corporate sector, you gave them a year, don’t you think it’d be fair?”
UPDATE: Manchins office released a statement clarifying his earlier comments to suggest he would not shut down the government over delaying the mandate. Additionally Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Thursday he discussed the issue with Manchin in a phone call.
From Manchin: “I have always opposed the individual mandate, and I continue to have concerns with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the cost and choices West Virginians will have in the health care exchanges. That being said, I do not believe that this issue should be used to shut down the government, and I will not vote to shut down the government. We need to work together as Americans to solve these problems so we can get our economy back on track and create American jobs.”