House Republicans on Wednesday blasted the Obama administration for botching the implementation of ObamaCare, which has forced companies to guess at their compliance responsibilities and prompted the administration to delay a key provision of the law last week.
"You won't have the White House come out and admit this, but they have failed to do their job," House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said on the House floor.
Sessions and other Republicans doled out the criticism during debate on two bills, including one that would give congressional permission to delay the employer mandate. The other bill would delay the individual insurance mandate, with Republicans accusing Obama of favoring companies over people by only giving companies the year-long delay.
"Why is big business getting a break, while individual Americans get the short end of the stick?" Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) asked.
Members approved a rule for the employer and individual mandate delay legislation in a mostly partisan 232-183 vote, although four Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the rule — Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Bill Owens (N.Y.). That vote sets up debate and final passage on both bills later this evening.
Republicans argued that the mismanaged implementation of the law is a good reason to delay the law for everyone, and further, that the law should ultimately be repealed. The GOP has noted that that even when the administration delayed the employer mandate earlier this month, it did so not in a formal notice, but in a blog post just before the July 4 holiday.
Sessions said that kind of poor outreach is causing problems for companies and people around the country, and is what necessitated a delay in the employer mandate.
"The facts of the case are that this administration, from top to bottom, has failed to provide information to the American people and to business about how they intended for their socialist, government-run plan to work, and they have not provided that leadership for three years," Sessions said. "They've not answered questions, they've not made decisions, they've not been open about how it would really work."
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) mocked the administration for having to delay a key portion of the law, after its supporters argued for so long that they can't wait for it to take effect.
"With the president's supporters chanting 'they can't wait,' they can't wait any longer for the benefits of the healthcare law to go into effect, the president has responded and told them, 'just wait,' " Burgess said.
Democrats cast the debate as a waste of time, as the White House has said Obama would veto the bills. The White House said the bill delaying the employer mandate is not needed in light of its own decision, and said delaying the individual mandate would lead to higher costs for insurance due to reduced participation.
House Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) noted that her home state announced this week that insurance premiums would be cut in half due to implementation of the individual mandate.
"Believe me when I tell you, New York does not want to be relieved of the burden of affordable healthcare," she said. "For many of them, it would be the first time in their lives they've actually been able to afford it.
"Delaying the individual mandate would undermine the very foundation of the Affordable Care Act, and cause healthcare premiums to skyrocket."
Democrats also accused Republicans of pursuing legislation to repeal or undermine the law for the 38th and 39th time, and said a party intent on cutting government waste should be less wasteful of the House's time. But Sessions accused Democrats of trying to cover for the administration's failure to implement the law.
"The Democrat Party here is trying to do everything they can do to cover up what is a monster mistake — an inability by the Obama administration to effectively lead on a government-run healthcare system," he said.
Republicans have spent the last week seizing on the employer mandate delay as a sign that implementation of ObamaCare is in real trouble. That delay prompted criticism from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who made a rare floor speech Tuesday in which he said people should get the same relief that Obama has granted to "big business."
On Wednesday morning, Boehner reiterated that it is "unfair" not to give average Americans the same kind of compliance relief that companies are getting. He also stressed the ongoing GOP complaint that Obama is picking and choosing which parts of the law he wants to implement.
"[T]he idea that the president can merely go out there and make a decision about what he's going to enforce and what he isn't going to enforce is fundamentally wrong," Boehner said Wednesday. "That's why if the president wants to delay the employer mandate for a year, the place to do it is with the Congress."
That argument has played into the immigration debate, as many Republicans say they are wary about passing a law dealing with border enforcement and a pathway to citizenship for fear that Obama would ignore the border provisions.