The House passed two symbolic bills Wednesday that would delay key parts of President Obama’s health care law, a Republican-led move also designed to force Democrats to take uncomfortable votes on the president’s signature law.
The measures, which passed largely along party lines, would push back for one year implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act’s requirements that individuals and business with more than 50 full-time workers purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
The president announced in early July that the so called employer mandate would be delayed until January 2015, but House GOP leaders held the vote anyway because they said such decisions require formal congressional approval. As for the vote to delay the individual mandate, they said it was warranted on the grounds of “basic fairness.”
“What we really ought to do is to make it clear that individuals should be treated just like businesses,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “To say that, well, we’re going to … relax this mandate for a year on American business but we’re going to continue to stick it to individuals and families is strictly and simply unfair to the American people.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and several other Republican leaders in the chamber issued a joint statement Wednesday night demanding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., bring the House bills to the floor.
“If Senate Democrats agree with the president that employers should be protected from Obamacare’s costly mandate, do they also believe that the rest of America should have that same protection?” the Senate GOP leaders said. “Rather than a delay for some, we need permanent delay for all Americans.”
But the bills, like the more than three dozen other House Republican measures passed since early last year that called for curbs or a repeal of Obamacare, will go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Democrats complained the vote to delay the employer mandate was redundant because the administration already approved it, while delaying the individual mandate wasn’t needed because the provision is less complicated.
The votes also were meant to put Democrats in a political bind. A vote in support of the employer mandate delay could be perceived as admitting Obama’s health care plan is flawed, while Democrats who voted no face Republican accusations of going against the president’s wishes.
Likewise, Democrats who voted for the employer mandate delay but rejected the delay for individuals would be accused by Republicans as favoring big businesses over ordinary working Americans.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the Republicans bills were nothing more than shameless political messaging.
They “are purely partisan politics. They have nothing to do with reality,” Hoyer said.
“Isn’t it a shame when millions of Americans have no health care, when millions of Americans have no jobs, when people are being furloughed in the defense sector… that we spend our time here on this floor with ‘gotcha’ politics, with no expectation whatsoever that either of these bills will ever become law?” he said.
The bill to delay the employer mandate passed 264 to 161. Only one Republican, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, oppose the measure, while 35 Democrats crossed party lines to vote “yes.”
The measure to push back the start date for the individual mandate passed 251 to 174. Griffith also was the lone Republican nay vote, while 22 Democrats supported the bill.