By Justin Sink - 07/11/14 02:33 PM EDT
The White House largely views Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) proposed lawsuit over the delay of the ObamaCare employer mandate as without merit, press secretary Josh Earnest signaled Friday.
Asked if White House lawyers had evaluated the legal merits of the proposed lawsuit, unveiled buy Boehner's office on Thursday, Earnest quipped that the question was “assuming there are some.”
“The president's not going to allow that to block him from doing everything within his power to expand economic opportunity for middle-class families all across the country,” he added.
Earnest's response drew fire from Michael Steel, a spokesman for the Speaker.
“He's criticizing the House lawsuit while drawing a taxpayer-funded salary [and] standing behind a taxpayer-funded podium,” Steel tweeted. “Couldn't playing pool surrounded by aides [and] Secret Service agents also be described as a ‘taxpayer-funded stunt?’ ”
According to draft legislation unveiled Thursday, the Speaker’s lawsuit will challenge the administration's decision to unilaterally delay a requirement that firms offer health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty.
Under the law, employers with more than 50 full-time workers must offer health insurance or pay a penalty.
But earlier this year, federal health officials announced that employers with between 50 and 99 workers have until January 2016 to comply with the requirement to offer health insurance or pay the fine. That was on top of a previous delay in July 2013, which pushed back implementation of the penalty for all impacted companies until January 2015.
Former White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the legality of the move when it was first announced.
“The ability to postpone the deadline is clear,” Carney said, telling reporters to “read the Federal Register,” the official docket for federal regulations, to survey similar examples of delays.
“The fact of the matter is this is not unusual, and it is evidence of the kind of flexibility and deference to the concerns and interests of, in this case, a small percentage of American businesses with more than 50 employees that you would think Republicans would support,” Carney said.