House defies veto threat, votes to delay ObamaCare mandates

The House voted Wednesday to delay the ObamaCare employer mandate, defying a White House veto threat and winning over dozens of Democrats.

Republicans also approved a bill delaying the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance by 2014.

The House GOP called up the two bills to protest the Obama administration's unilateral decision to delay the mandate that employers provide health insurance for a year.

Members voted 264-161 to delay the employer mandate for a year — a vote the GOP says authorizes Obama's decision. 

Thirty-five Democrats joined Republicans in passing the employer mandate delay. Only one Republican voted no.

Members then voted 251-174 to delay the individual mandate for a year. That vote won over fewer Democrats — 22 voted for the bill — and again one Republican voted against it. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) was the lone Republican to vote against both bills.

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The GOP is outraged over what they called Obama's selective enforcement of the law, and at the same time, angry that Obama did not go further by offering a similar delay from the individual mandate scheduled to go into effect in 2014.

The administration threatened to veto the two bills because it opposes delaying the individual mandate, and sees the House action on the employer mandate as unnecessary.

House passage of both bills would send them to the Senate, which is expected to ignore them.

The debate and votes once again dredged up all the anger and frustration that Republicans have felt toward a law they had no role in writing, and that Democrats have felt with each GOP attempt to repeal it. The debate quickly drew in all the top GOP and Democratic leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who released a statement saying that delaying the mandate only for companies is unfair.

“What we really ought to do is to make it clear that individuals should be treated just like businesses,” he said. “To say that, 'well, we're going to, 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.”

Several other Republicans picked up on this attempt to turn the tables on Democrats by saying Obama's decision shows he cares more about companies than individuals.

“Families and individuals are already struggling in this Obama economy,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). “They are paying more for gas, more for food and wages aren't keeping up with the ever-increasing costs of everyday life.

“Don't these hardworking Americans deserve the same relief the administration is giving to the business community?”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also asked during the debate, “What about the families and small business who are going to have the same kind of mandate?”

Democrats cast the bill as a slippery slope toward repealing all of ObamaCare, a goal some Republicans admitted to. They also warned that delaying the individual mandate would mean higher insurance rates for the next year.

But most Democrats said they were simply weary of GOP efforts to defeat ObamaCare, and noted that today's votes are the 38th and 39th time the GOP has tried to wholly or partially take down the law since 2011.

“I have to say I am so sick and tired of the time that the House Republicans continue to waste on their anti-ObamaCare message,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said. “Repeal, defund, obstruct — you pick the tactic.”

Democratic leaders had a more harsh assessment of the bills.

“Political stunts,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “An excuse for a legislative agenda. It is not worthy of this House of Representatives, it is not deserving of the respect of the American people.”

“This bill and the other bill are not real,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) added. “They are purely partisan politics. This is political messaging, nothing more, nothing less.”

Those comments drew a rebuke from Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who insisted that the bills are driven by substance, not politics.

“We're talking about substance here,” Cantor said. “And instead, what we hear are objections about our position, somehow insinuating that we don't care about people's healthcare. I would say it is exactly the opposite.”

The two bills are H.R. 2667, the Authority for Mandate Delay Act, and H.R. 2668, the Fairness for American Families Act. But under the rule for the bill, H.R. 2667 will be added to the end of H.R. 2668, so the House will send just the latter bill to the Senate.

This story was updated at 7:06 p.m.