Chamber threatens to punish lawmakers who oppose mandate delay

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is threatening to punish lawmakers in the 2014 midterm elections if they oppose a vote today to delay ObamaCare's employer mandate.

The powerful business lobby declared its support for the measure in a letter to lawmakers Tuesday. It argues the move will allow firms to pursue more hiring. 

The Chamber says it will "score" votes on the legislation — that is, it will keep a tally of those who vote for and against it. Scoring is used by pressure groups such as the Chamber to determine who they will support or oppose in future elections.

The Obama administration announced this month it would delay the mandate, but has threatened to veto the House bill, which it says is unnecessary.

Republicans say the bill provides a legislative foundation for the decision, and argue that the administration cannot pick and choose which parts of the law to delay.

"It is crucial that an atmosphere where employers can focus on their role in revitalizing the economy be provided," R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber's executive vice president for government affairs, wrote to members.

"Delaying enforcement of the employer mandate would allow businesses to focus on strengthening their businesses, hiring more workers, and revitalizing the economy."

The letter, released Wednesday, did not mention separate legislation that would impose a year's delay in the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance. The administration has also threatened to veto that bill, although neither seem likely to move through the Senate, where Democrats enjoy a majority. 

The Chamber releases an annual vote scorecard, highlighting members that supported and opposed bills considered important by the organization.

Josten said he would consider including Wednesday's vote on the employer mandate in the 2013 scorecard, which is likely to provide fodder for attacks in the 2014 midterm elections.

The group's letter followed a spate of similar communications from business groups supporting the delay bill.

In one case, a coalition of more than 35 private sector associations urged lawmakers to support the legislative delay.

This story was updated at 12:43 p.m.