By delaying the employer mandate for a year, the Obama administration has given Republicans an opportunity to advance the day that Obamacare is repealed.
House Republicans should, as they are considering, call two successive votes, the first to put the employer-mandate delay into law and the second to delay the individual mandate as well. Democrats will be unlikely to break with the administration on the first vote, and, having voted to delay a mandate on businesses, they will find themselves hard-pressed to explain why they did not support one for individuals and families. If, on the other hand, they vote to delay the individual mandate, they will be showing that there is substantial bipartisan opposition to major features of Obamacare. From there, House Republicans can move on to voting for a delay of the entire law. For Republicans, it’s all upside — so long as they make it clear that these votes are a way of pursuing the replacement of Obamacare and not a substitute for it.
Some Republicans may be tempted to think that instead the entire law should be implemented on schedule, on the theory that voters will feel the pain and move right. But Obamacare is not going to be implemented on schedule: It is going to be implemented however the administration believes will be most advantageous to its goals, regardless of the letter of the law. And Republicans’ goal should be to keep the country from suffering through Obamacare, not to exploit the suffering.
House Republicans have rightly voted on multiple occasions to register their opposition to Obamacare and their support for its repeal, but votes for repeal cannot be the only tactic they employ in pursuit of the goal. The administration’s move shows that the law is running into serious difficulties, that these difficulties are not the result of Republican obstruction, and that even Democrats do not treat it as a fait accompli. Republicans have a chance to weaken the political coalition behind Obamacare while highlighting some of its most obnoxious provisions.