Obama allies downplay decision to delay employer mandate for one year

White House allies on Wednesday downplayed the Obama administration’s decision to delay a key part of the healthcare law as Republicans questioned whether the move was legal. [WATCH VIDEO]

Former adviser David Axelrod argued history would judge President Obama’s signature legislative achievement kindly, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered the White House cover from the left by echoing administration arguments that the delay would give employers more time to get ready for the law.

Reverberations from Tuesday’s surprise decision were also felt as a trade group representing hospitals argued for other provisions of the laws to be delayed.

Republicans piled on their attacks, questioning both the White House’s motives and its legal ability to delay a part of the law.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) characterized the move as the administration's latest attempt to skirt Congress.

“This action raises a lot of questions about whether the Obama administration can simply ignore the law when it’s convenient for them," said Roe, chairman of the Education and Workforce Health subcommittee, in a statement.

Roe said he will launch an investigation into the White House's legal justification for the delay. He also asked Congress's research arm to probe the decision.

“I don’t think any president has the authority to pick and choose what parts of law to follow,” Roe said.

Pelosi, who just a week ago had called on Americans to “celebrate” the healthcare law on July 4, defended the delay, arguing the administration was being responsible in giving businesses more time to prepare for the mandate.

She also suggested the decision would not significantly impair the law, noting that only 4 percent of U.S. businesses would be affected by the mandate, and that other parts of the law would be unaffected.

“This change will not affect upcoming enrollment in health insurance marketplaces nor a family’s ability to obtain insurance coverage that fits its needs,” she said in a statement.

“Soon, Americans will benefit from greater wellness and prevention, more choices and competition in the insurance market, and increased access to quality, affordable care,” she wrote. “As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July — the moment of our nation’s independence — we celebrate the Affordable Care Act as a source of health independence for America’s families and small businesses.”

Both Obama and Pelosi have a lot at stake in setting up the law.

If it is Obama’s signature legislative achievement, it is also Pelosi’s. She lost her Speakership months after Obama signed the healthcare bill into law.

Axelrod on Wednesday said he was “not concerned” about the delay, and that people are in a rush to make judgments.

“Every day in Washington's Election Day. We tend to judge these things on the basis of what's happening at that moment,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Axelrod said that Obama’s “view is that we ought to plow forward, make sure this can work, and we're going to look back at it and it's going to be our proudest accomplishment.”

The healthcare law requires businesses with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance for their employees starting in 2014 or pay a fine.

Tuesday’s announcement delayed this implementation date until January 2015.

The White House said that by delaying the requirement until 2015, it would give more businesses time to figure out the complex reporting requirements mandated by the law.

Axelrod tried to downplay the setback Wednesday morning, saying that major social programs often “come online in fits and starts.”

“There are bumps in the road. You have to make adjustments along the way,” he continued. “Ultimately when history looks back at them, we say that was the right thing to do. I think that's the way it's going to be with the Affordable Care Act.”