Members of the Senate’s spending committee on Thursday defeated a two-pronged attempt to strike and defund key mandates in President Obama’s health care law.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted along party lines, 16-14, to spurn each amendment offered by Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican.
Although the Democratic majority shot down the attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the votes cued up divergent paths toward funding, or starving, Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement in light of its recent stumbles.
The White House quietly announced July 2 it would delay, to 2015, the “employer mandate” that requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide adequate health coverage or pay fines.
Mr. Moran’s measures would have defunded the employer mandate and the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to acquire some form of health insurance.
Republicans have cheered the delay afforded to businesses while using it as leverage in their bid to dismantle the reforms and seek similar relief for individual Americans.
“Although the delay is good news, it does raise questions about the viability of the law,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and vice chairman of the spending committee.
Mr. Shelby said he has “serious concerns” about an uptick in a fiscal 2014 spending bill’s funds for the health care overhaul, including $1.4 billion to implement the law’s state-by-state exchanges, where those without employer-based insurance will use government subsides to buy insurance.
““This increase has been included despite recent failures of key components of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
But Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and an author of the health care law, said he will make sure the Department of Health and Human Services has the funding it needs to implement the reforms so long as he chairs the panel’s subcommittee on health.
He said that the individual mandate is an integral part of the law and that Congress should support efforts to get young, healthy Americans enrolled in the exchanges this October.
A healthier risk pool would keep premiums in check, since sicker patients with pre-existing conditions cannot, under the law, be rejected by insurers.
Despite Democrats’ entreaties, Republican opposition to the law shows no signs of abating.
Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and a rising star of his party, said Congress should not support any short-term spending plan that includes funding for the health care law.
House Republican leaders are planning test votes designed to force Democrats to either support or oppose the law’s mandates on employers and individuals.