The White House today dismissed complaints and concerns from Republicans over the delay of part of the Affordable Care Act, calling it merely part of a "nihilistic effort" to undermine the law all together.
"You know and I know that their concern is not that we've delayed the implementation of an aspect of this law -- one provision of it," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "It's that they want to try everything they can to undermine the implementation of this law and the reception by the American people of the benefits that they would gain from this law."
Last week, the administrationit was delaying by a year the requirement that all businesses with more than 50 workers provide health-care coverage or pay fines of $2,000 per employee (referred to as the employer mandate). Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat of Republican criticism over the move.
On Wednesday, all 45 Senate Republicans signed onto a letter to President Obama, calling him to permanently delay the implementation of the entire law.
"We write to express concern that in your recent decision to delay implementation of the employer mandate, you have unilaterally acted and failed to work with Congress on such a significant decision," the letter says. "Further, while your action finally acknowledges some of the many burdens this law will place on job creators, we believe the rest of this law should be permanently delayed for everyone in order to avoid significant economic harm to American families."
The letter hits on the two main criticisms of the delay: Firstly, some Republicans and Democrats are questioning the administration's authority to delay a provision of the law, even though the Affordable Care Act expressly states the mandate should take effect starting in 2014. It also makes the point that the delay raises concerns about the rest of the law -- namely, the requirement for all Americans to acquire insurance (the individual mandate). Yesterday, House Republicanscalling for the delay of the individual mandate.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday addressed both concerns, saying the administration is confident is has the legal authority to postpone the mandate and would address those seriously concerned about it, like Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
"I'm sure we will have conversations with senators who are seriously interested in the implementation of the law," Carney said. "What we do not take seriously is the ongoing nihilistic effort by Republicans to undermine a law that's been signed and upheld by the Supreme Court."
Anyone who suggests it's unusual to delay the implementation of a complex law, Carney continued, is "deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or just willfully ignorant about past precedent."
He added that "the calamitous hollering that you hear is reflective of a political and partisan effort to undermine" the law. He pointed to the nearly 40 votes the GOP-led House has taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act as evidence that the complaints are purely political.
In the wake of the employer mandate delay, the House is now reportedly considering a vote specifically to repeal the individual mandate. Putting the individual mandate up for review could be considered a politically beneficial strategy ahead of the 2014 elections, given it remains one of the least popular parts of the health care law.