Manchin backs delay in ObamaCare mandate

Manchin is the first Senate Democrat to signal that he might aid Republicans' efforts to derail the healthcare law in exchange for keeping the federal government open or raising the country's debt ceiling.

His comments were reported just as President Obama delivered a speech about the healthcare law in which he vowed not to accept delays in the law's implementation.

House Republicans are considering which anti-ObamaCare measures they might attach to a temporary spending bill, following the failure of a conservative push to defund the healthcare law.

One option would be a one-year delay in the individual mandate — a proposal that gained steam within the GOP after the Obama administration delayed the law's employer mandate by a year. 

Republicans have argued that if employers are getting a break from the requirement to provide insurance, individuals should get a break from the requirement to buy it.

Manchin reportedly agreed with that logic during a Bloomberg Government breakfast.

“Don’t put the mandate on the American public right now,” Manchin said, according to Bloomberg. “Give them at least a year. If you know you couldn’t bring the corporate sector, you gave them a year, don’t you think it’d be fair?”

Manchin clarified Thursday afternoon that while he opposes the individual mandate, he's not willing to go as far as congressional Republicans.

“I have always opposed the individual mandate, and I continue to have concerns with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the cost and choices West Virginians will have in the health care exchanges. That being said, I do not believe that this issue should be used to shut down the government, and I will not vote to shut down the government," he said in a statement.

Delaying the individual mandate would deal a severe blow to the healthcare law and could make it altogether unworkable. 

The unpopular provision was included in the healthcare law to help prevent massive premium increases. It aims to bring young, healthy people into the system to offset the added costs of guaranteeing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

— This post was updated at 3:06 p.m.