Democrats Defy White House on Obamacare, Vote Against Individual and Employer Mandates


credit: SS&SS / Foter / CC BY-NC

When the Obama administration delayed the start of the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, legal experts responded with raised eyebrows. Did the administration really have the authority to postpone implementation of the provision? After all, the law clearly stated that the mandate and related penalties were to begin in 2014. Congress had not given President Obama the authority to delay the provision's start date.

Then something interesting happened. House Republicans offered to give President Obama explicit authority to delay the employer mandate. They put together a bill, and declared their intention to pass it along with another bill that would also delay the law's individual mandate by a year.

President Obama's response was telling. He threatened to veto the bills should they come to his desk. Indeed, he threatened rather forcefully, with the White House issuing a statement of administration policy declaring the president's intention to nix the two pieces of legislation should they come to his desk. The statement dismissively described the employer-mandate bill as "unnecessary."

Then something really interesting happened. The House held a vote on the two bills yesterday. And the legislation giving the White House authority to delay the employer mandate passed on a 264 to 161 vote—with 35 Democrats voting for it. Unlike the White House, these 35 Democrats seemed not to think that it was "unnecessary" to get congressional approval before changing law. House Democrats aren't the only ones who have questioned the administration's authority either. Asked earlier this month whether the president could unilaterally delay the provision, Sen. Tom Harkin, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, and one of Obamacare's authors, responded to The New York Times, "This was the law. How can they change the law?"


How, indeed. One way to interpret the White House's veto threat is, as the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon remarks, that President Obama "supports rewriting federal law—but only if he does it. Not if Congress does it." That's not likely to be a winning message with members of congress who believe it's their job to write and make laws.

Which may help explain the most interesting development of all, which is that 22 House Democrats also voted with the Republican majority to delay the individual mandate as well. 

Now, by itself, repealing just the law's individual mandate while leaving the rest of its insurance regulations regulations intact is not good policy. In fact, it's a recipe for an insurance death spiral, and perhaps an even bigger policy mess than Obamacare is now. 

But here's the thing: Democrats—including the 22 Democrats who voted to delay the mandate—know this. They know it because that's the reason that Democrats, aware of the provision's unpopularity, agreed to include a mandate in the first place. They know it because multiple liberal think tanks reminded them this week of the individual mandate's importance to the overall coverage scheme. They know it because throughout the individual mandate's legal challenge, the Obama administration emphasized repeatedly that it was critical to the law's survival. They know it because health insurers who have been counting on the mandate fretted loudly this week if the individual mandate is delayed, the exchanges would have to be postponed too. The bulk of the law, and its central innovation, would be on hold.

Democrat legislators know all this—and yet 22 of them voted, against their president, and against their party, to delay the individual mandate anyway.

Part of what this tells us is that the individual mandate is unpopular, and legislators don't want to be seen voting for it if they can avoid it. But it also suggests that there's a divide opening up between at least a handful of congressional Democrats and the White House, where some of them willing to cast a vote that not only directly contradicts the the White House, but serves as a potential precursor to delaying the bulk of Obamacare as well.

For now, of course, it's a safe, symbolic vote. And in all likelihood, it'll stay that way. But if the divide between the administration and enough congressional Democrats widens further, how long before it might have real, practical consequences?  

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  1. So why did the GOP do this? I’m not sure what the advantage for them is…

    1. Pissing contest

    2. “So why did the GOP do this?”

      It’s possible a couple of them actually read the constitution. I’m not saying they did, just that it is possible.

      1. Telling that I hadn’t even thought of that.

      2. This is why I have never been dismissive of people that use Cliff Notes…

    3. I don’t see how they lose either way. In 2014 they will pointing out all the flaws in the law and can point to the White House and HHS’ actions as proof that Obama and the Democrats don’t know what the heck they are doing.

      1. “… the Democrats don’t know what the heck they are doing.”

        Has that ever really hurt them (or anyone) before? I ask that with a degree of seriousness…

        1. The Republicans fucking up Iraq cost them in 2006. The Democrats fucking up healthcare reform, at least in my opinion, should cost them in 2014, along with His Holiness’ other scandals.

          1. It’s okay. Rolling Stone will come to the rescue by putting Obama on the cover. They’ll make him cross Abbey Road – alone. “The First and Only Beatle’ will be the caption.

            Personally, I think Mad did a better job of getting to the essence of Obama.

          2. Now for the funner question: Is it fucking something up, or is it fucking up your narrative while fucking something up? Governments break shit all of the time with the primary intention of claiming more power to fix that which was broken. Great Depression… anyone? Great Recession… anyone?

            At what point does something reach the level of inevitable, genuine “responsibility”? I don’t know; I really don’t… However, I have a powerful faith in the Party of Stupid to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

          3. “along with His Holiness’ other scandals.”

            Not going to happen. Look at our resident brain-deads; both continue to make up excuses.
            The man could commit buggery in the platz at high noon, and they’d claim he was forced to do so by the rethuglicans.
            There is no horrible activity by Obozo that can not be explained away by the Obots.

    4. I’m not sure what the advantage for them is…

      Well, what exactly happens if the president vetoes it and then still delays implementation of the part of the law it wants to? That kind of screams “constutional crisis” to me but Suderman is not super explicit on that point.

      1. It’s only a crisis if Congress gets the spine to Impeach.

        That is not going to happen, not even if BHO sodomizes an altar boy in the nave of the National Cathedral during a nationally televised Sunday service. (Well, maybe if it interrupted the Superbowl broadcast.)

      2. Won’t get to that point, because the Senate will never let it come to a vote.

        But the President’s position is odd.

        Some of the House Dems opposed the President doing the waiver, but the WH really makes no sense.

        1. John Thacker| 7.18.13 @ 4:18PM |#
          …”But the President’s position is odd.”…

          At the risk of granting too much intelligence to the court of Obozo, it seems the claim is simply ‘we don’t need congress; we will rule by decree’, and the position is consistent with that.

    5. Wonder how it will go down when the first employee sues over not getting his mandated insurance policy and the WH argues:

      “We didn’t need the authority that law we vetoed gave us!”

    6. Also, if your employer doesn’t offer you insurance are you still required to pay the penaltax if you don’t buy it individually?

      1. I’m almost certain that’s the idea.

    7. So why did the GOP do this?

      Calling his bluff. It seems they succeeded.

  2. Obamacare isn’t their legacy. Someone is going to have to pick up the pieces of the party after the village idiot goes into retirement. If the Dems lose the Senate in 2014, expect a lot more Democrats take a real interest in repealing Obamacare.

  3. Ah, the cracks in the dam continue to grow. Excellent.

    1. Faster, please.

    2. But what about the little Dutch Boy that looks a lot like Trayvon Martin Obama?

      1. I’m sure he can stick his finger somewhere else.

  4. President Obama “supports rewriting federal law?but only if he does it. Not if Congress does it.”

    Well, yeah. I mean, isn’t that how dictatorships work?

    1. He should just dissolve the Estates-General — oops, I mean Congress — and exercise his Divine right to rule directly.

      1. Joffrey: I am THE KING!

        Tywin: Any man who needs to say “I am the King” is no king at all.

        There is no question which politician would be Joffrey if we compared current politicians to Game of Thrones characters.

        1. Well, who’s the most childish and psychotic?

          1. And a puny fool threatening to give battle hardened men a red smile?

            1. I do remember someone talking about a “red line in the sand” and failing to do shit when that line was crossed.

          2. Who’s Tyrion? We have some slapping that’s urgently needed.

        2. Obama= Joffrey
          Valarie Jarret= Cersei

        3. Obama= Joffrey
          Valarie Jarret= Cersei

        4. That would make Dubya Robert, which sort of works.

  5. See, this is working just as we planned it!

    1. I am curious about the motives of the Democrats voting this way. Are they making a gesture to placate their voters? Do they sincerely believe in the unfairness of delaying one mandate but not the other? Do they think that delaying the mandates will kill Obamacare and get them closer to their holy grail of single payer?

      Perhaps a list of them would be a clue, but I am too lazy to look it up. If they are Blue Dogs, the first or second explanations might be true. If they are DSA types, it might be the second and third.

      1. It’s almost always about their personal political future.

      2. I’m going with PL’s statement.
        Dunno if you’re old enough to have watched Nixon sinking in the west, but it got smelly enough that the hard-core supporters started hearing from their constituents (probably “contributors”) that there were elections coming up and…
        ‘So, Dick, here’s the life-belt, but we’re sailing off that way’

      3. Rollcall for employer mandate delay.

        Rollcall for individual mandate delay.

        Mostly moderates like Matheson of Utah, McIntyre of NC.

  6. Shit, I just got popcorn butter on my monocle!

  7. Asked earlier this month whether the president could unilaterally delay the provision, Sen. Tom Harkin, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, and one of Obamacare’s authors, responded to The New York Times, “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

    Come now Senator, you know full well: Because fuck you, that’s why.

    1. “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

      Are you serious?!

      1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

    2. Why do you care Tom? You’re retiring at the end of your term. Go away, and let the grownups talk now.

  8. “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

    Do we not refer to it as Obamacare? Do we not? Then Obama can do whatever he wants with Obamacare. Because it has his name all over it.

  9. See how uninsured citizens are desperate for subsidized and/or cheap medical insurance? They are so desperate they need someone to force them to buy it. You do want this insurance! You need this, now take it or pay me!

  10. What happens in 2015 when the Dems could be coming off a very bad midterm and Obamacare is even more obviously a disaster than it is now? Does he delay again? Does he refuse to delay and his party reaches a compromise with the Republicans to override his veto and take the issue off the table in 2016? Wouldn’t that be a hoot.

    1. In that scenario you would have to consult a book about the psychology of cults and what happens when a cult leader loses his grip on the others.

      Because really, how else would you describe the people who would still stand by Obama and be willing to destroy the party by going down with him and Obamacare?

      1. Don’t drink government Kool-Aid.

      2. I don’t know. But my sense is that the members of the cult are increasingly members of the media and the progtard base. How many actual Dem politicians are in the cult remains unclear. Certainly people like Pelosi who never worry about re-election are. But it is a pretty good bet that Dems who actually have to stand for a contested election are finding the kool aid not very tasty these days.

        And remember, it would only take say half of the Dem Congressional Caucus to defect to override a veto. The amount of whaling and knashing of teeth by the various members of the cult in the media would be epic.

  11. “22 House Democrats also voted with the Republican majority to delay the individual mandate as well.”

    Rethuglican obstructionismz?!

  12. A book is being written as we speak: How Rethuglicans Ate Obamacare and Stole Health from the Children

    Can someone please explain me the running ‘monocle’ joke here? I want in, dammit.

    1. It will be “Because of Republican lies America lost patience and repealed Obamacare just as it was about to deliver”.

    2. It’s a reference to the clich?s of libertarians as fat cats and fat cats as wearing monocles and top hats.

      1. Also, mustachios. Which are twirled.

        1. And swimming pools full of gold doubloons in which to swim!

  13. Obamacare needs rebranding.



    1. “Obamascare”
      Mo betta.

      1. Obamacash.

          1. Obamascopy.

              1. “Obamaectomy.”

                We can “HOPE”!

      1. That’s the one where everyone under thirty gets sodomized.

    2. Obamacare needs rebranding.

      The “doesn’t” is silent.

    3. Obamapanels

    4. I shit you not, I saw someone with a bumper sticker that said “Obama Cares” on it last week. I found it disturbing, though it also made me laugh. I live in Montgomery County, MD, so I really shouldn’t be surprised, but that one really took it over the top for me.

      1. In SF, someone is printing (and at least one person stuck on their car) a sticker that reads:
        “I (heart) Obamacare”
        Which is sort of interesting, because by now, even Obama seems to be needing some pepto bismol over the issue.
        Not Pelosi! Nope, not her! She’s so fucking dumb it would take a tactical nuke to wake her up to reality.

  14. “President Obama “supports rewriting federal law?but only if he does it. Not if Congress does it.”

    Ahem. Let me try and explain this from a progs perspective.

    “This is so dumb. Laws are like giving birth. A mother owns her child forever and can do what she wants in raising it. You can’t break that special covenant. It’s the same with laws. Obama madeth and he owneth. How dare Congress get in the way? They need to understand he’s trying to fix things. So of course it should be left to only him, just like the mother-child relationship.”

    1. That’s actually not too much of an exaggeration. The assumption is that Obama is trying to implement the law, so any changes he proposes are necessary, whereas the nasty GOP is full of wreckers and kulaks.

  15. “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

    That’s funny.

  16. http://www.augustforecast.com/…..evolution/

    Do you guys know anything about this writer and website?

    1. Seems to be an anti-Trilateralist. His post is accurate but over-heated: the commies always jump on incidents like this.

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