By Jonathan Easley - 04/08/14 11:45 AM EDT
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) on Tuesday challenged Attorney General Eric Holder over the legality of the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
“When Congress puts effective dates in laws, do we need to further state that the effective date cannot be waived or modified by the executive branch, or is the president required to follow the law, and also follow the dates set by Congress?" Chabot asked.
Holder responded that “the president has the duty, obviously, to follow the law,” but that “it would depend on the statute” and statutory interpretation of the law.
The Department of Treasury has defended its decision to delay the employer mandate, saying it was exercising its “longstanding authority to grant transition relief when implementing new legislation” under authority in the tax code that this, and previous administrations, have used to make changes to tax law.
Republicans have questioned whether Treasury had the authority to implement the delay and alleged that the White House initiated it for political purposes.
Holder said the Department of Justice provided legal analysis to the administration regarding the delay, but that his agency doesn’t discuss those arguments publicly. He said Treasury reviewed the law and “determined there was a legal basis” for the change.
Chabot continued to press Holder over whether Congress now must write into its laws that the dates embedded in them are final, and not subject to changed by the executive branch.
“Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job,” Holder responded.
In early February, the Obama administration announced a second delay of the employer mandate.
The requirement that companies offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty was a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. But in its final regulations, Treasury delayed the mandate for companies with between 50 and 99 employers after business groups pressured the administration for more time to comply with the law.
Republicans have called the multiple unilateral changes to ObamaCare “lawless,” while arguing that other portions of the law, like the individual mandate, should also be delayed.
A Treasury official will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on the delay later Tuesday.