Obama slams GOP over 'holy grail' of blocking healthcare law

President Obama hammered congressional Republicans on Friday over their efforts to undermine his signature healthcare law. 

"The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have healthcare," Obama said during a news conference at the White House. 

Obama said blocking the Affordable Healthcare Act has become Republicans' "holy grail" and an "ideological fixation." He also criticized the push among conservatives to shut down the federal government unless Obama agrees to defund the healthcare law.

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"The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting healthcare is a bad idea," the president said.

Obama would not say whether he would veto a spending bill that defunded his healthcare law, but said he doesn't expect Republicans to actually take the threat that far.

"I'm assuming they will not take that path," Obama said. "I have confidence that common sense, in the end, will prevail."

Obama also criticized congressional Republicans as he defended his decision to delay the healthcare law's employer mandate. The Treasury Department has delayed the mandate for one year, and Republicans have criticized the administration for acting unilaterally.

Obama said he made the decision after consulting with employers and that working with Congress would have been impossible.

"In a normal political environment it would have been easier for me to simply call up the Speaker and say, 'This is a tweak ... let's make a technical change to the law.' That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But we're not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to 'ObamaCare,'" the president said.

The healthcare law's central provisions are scheduled to take effect in a matter of months. 

New insurance marketplaces are set to open on Oct. 1 to begin enrolling people in policies that begin as early as Jan. 1. Low-income families will receive tax subsidies to help cover the cost of their premiums.

Also at the beginning of the year, new policies will take effect that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or setting higher prices based on pre-existing conditions.

Obama hammered the GOP's efforts to block the law before it takes effect.

"They used to say they had a replacement. That never actually arrived. ... They don't have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates," Obama said.

He reiterated his prediction of "glitches" rolling out the healthcare marketplaces, comparing it to the rocky early days of Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as the Medicare drug benefit.