OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP smells blood in ObamaCare delay

Senate Republicans said Wednesday that their proposals to delay the individual mandate don't affect the guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, meaning premiums would rise dramatically if the delay actually became law (which it won't).

“We acknowledge that would be an issue that we would have to be deal with" if the mandate were successfully delayed, Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneThis week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat Lawmakers want infrastructure funded by offshore tax reform Senate GOP hedges on ObamaCare repeal timeline MORE (R-S.D.) said Wednesday.

Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee said the omission shows that "this is not about policy. It's politics."

Read our story on the pre-existing conditions issue.

It's legal: The administration pushed back Wednesday against GOP charges that the delay in the employer mandate was illegal. The Treasury Department, in a letter to lawmakers, outlined its "longstanding administrative authority" to provide flexibility with new penalties, a step it also took under the Bush administration.

White House press secretary Jay Carney also noted that regulatory delays are incredibly common.

"People who suggest that there's anything unusual about the delaying of a deadline in the implementation of a complex and comprehensive law are, you know, deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or are just willfully ignorant about past precedent," Carney said. "It's just not — it's not serious."

Healthwatch has more here on Treasury's letter and here on Carney's pushback.

Spotlight on Texas: The Texas State House passed a bill Wednesday banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation and applying a range of new restrictions to abortion clinics. The legislation is now headed to the Senate and could pass as early as Friday. 

Apart from receiving national attention, the developments drew strong responses from players in Washington. The Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion rights, praised Texas Republicans for "working tirelessly" to "protect an entire class of unborn children." The House Pro-Choice Caucus cast the vote as another attack in the GOP "war on women."

Drawing a line: Abortion-rights supporters in the Senate gathered with Planned Parenthood staffers Wednesday to decry the Texas vote and warn Senate Republicans not to push a similar 20-week ban recently passed by the House. Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRepublicans giving Univision the cold shoulder: report Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's Labor pick Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (R-Fla.) has been rumored as a possible lead sponsor for the legislation, but Senate Democrats emphasized that the bill is a "non-starter," no matter how it comes up.

"If this bill were to be offered as an amendment to a bill, we would fight against it and defeat it," said Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (D-Calif.) at a press conference.

"Regardless of who introduces it, it is going nowhere," said Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayInspector general reviewing HHS decision to halt ObamaCare ads Dems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Wash.).

Read more about the House bill at The Hill's Floor Action blog.

User fee concerns: Republican senators are asking the administration to explain how ObamaCare's exchanges will operate without long-term increases in corporate fees or patient premiums. Six GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee urged federal officials to employ cost-containment measures to ensure that health insurance companies don't face ever-increasing user fees to support the exchanges.

Read more about the letter to Health Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusSebelius on GOP healthcare plan: 'I'm not sure what the goal is here' Obama's health secretary to be first female president of American University Leaked email: Podesta pushed Tom Steyer for Obama’s Cabinet MORE and Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack Lew3 unconventional ways Trump can tackle the national debt One year later, the Iran nuclear deal is a success by any measure Chinese President Xi says a trade war hurts the US and China MORE at Healthwatch.

Thursday's schedule

The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up a 2014 bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America will hold a rally at Upper Senate Park against federal and state legislative moves to curb abortion rights. Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenThe case against Gorsuch: It’s all about precedent The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are scheduled to speak.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Results for Life will host a Capitol Hill briefing to educate staff on the value of genetic and genomic testing.

State by state

N.C. attaches abortion restrictions to motorcycle safety bill

Feds: Texas Hispanics may not hear health reform message

Mo. Senate Committee told 'expand, improve' Medicaid

Reading list

Computer snag limits insurance penalties on smokers

CMS proposed rule would kill Reid 'fiscal cliff' provision

UnitedHealthcare sees doubling of accountable care business

Pneumonia vaccine said to reduce U.S. hospitalizations

What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Walgreens, Blue Cross launch effort to promote ObamaCare

HHS pushes ObamaCare enrollment with new grants

GOP wants new cost estimate for health law after mandate delay

NBA player, actress lobby for diabetes research at Senate hearing

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Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351 / @sam_baker

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523 / @eliseviebeck