Obamacare

Democratic Senator Says He'd Vote to Delay Obamacare's Individual Mandate

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credit: studio08denver / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Critics of Obamacare are quite excited by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's statement today that not only does he oppose the health law's individual mandate, he would vote to delay it.

Republicans have targeted the unpopular individual mandate as their best hope of getting Democrats to agree to a delay. 

Via Bloomberg News:

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke ranks with fellow Democrats and said he'd support a stopgap spending plan that delays the individual mandate in President Barack Obama's health-care law.

"There's no way I could not vote for it," Manchin said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast today. "It's very reasonable and sensible."

…Manchin, 66, said he'd be willing to delay the individual mandate as part of the budget negotiations because the Obama administration in July gave businesses an extra year to provide their workers with health insurance.

"Don't put the mandate on the American public right now," Manchin said. "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?"

It's newsworthy that Manchin specifically said he'd vote to delay the provision, and that he said it in the midst of a showdown over the budget and the health law. But critics of Obamacare should keep their hopes in check.

Manchin's statement of opposition to the mandate doesn't change much, because it's not really new. He has long been wary of the mandate; Politico listed him as a potential threat to the provision all the way back in 2011. And in general, he's been more critical of the health law than most Democrats. "The president's plan — 'Obamacare,' as it's been called — is far too reaching. It's overreaching. It needs to have a lot of it repealed. If you can't fix that, repeal the whole thing," he said in 2010 while running for Senate. 

Meanwhile, Manchin is only one Democratic vote in the Senate. To pass an individual mandate delay, upper chamber Republicans would need the support of at least five Democrats. 

That's always been the barrier. Getting a delay of the mandate through the Senate is going to be tough as long as it's controlled by Democrats. It could become easier if the administration continues to delay parts of the implementation process. But Manchin's statement, on its own, isn't much of a game changer.