President Obama has threatened to veto a House bill that would put into law a decision he made two weeks ago.
In a statement, the White House said the Obama administration "strongly opposes" a pair of Republican-led bills to delay the employer mandate and individual mandate within the president's signature health care law.
The administration quietly announced July 2 in a pair of blog posts that it would delay by one year, to 2015, penalties tied to a mandate requiring firms with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time workers to provide insurance or pay fines, citing the business community's concerns about complex reporting requirements.
Eyeing an opportunity to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans cued up votes for Wednesday on bills to codify the White House's delay and match it with a delay of the provision requiring most Americans to obtain some form of health insurance.
The votes will force Democrats to align with the president or distance themselves from the overhaul in the wake of its recent stumbles.
The legislation also left the president's Office of Management and Budget in the awkward position of threatening, in the case of the employer mandate, to kill a bill that would reflect the White House's own decision-making.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, urged members Tuesday to vote for both bills, arguing that regular Americans should get a reprieve from the individual mandate because the Obama administration has delayed the mandate for "big business."
"We think it is blatantly unfair, and that is why we are here today," Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, Texas Republican, said at the outset of a hearing to set parameters of debate on the bills before Wednesday's votes.
Democrats have downplayed the impact of the employer mandate, noting it will affect a small percentage of businesses. However, they say the individual mandate is the brainchild of conservative thinkers and integral to the law.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that he expects most Democrats to vote against both measures because the employer mandate affects "a relatively small universe of businesses" and congressional authorization of the delay "is redundant and unnecessary."
Supporters of Obamacare say the law is helping Americans by allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plans and forcing insurers to spend a greater share of customers' premiums on actual care. They said people with pre-existing medical conditions will get coverage, and the poorest Americans will be able to afford coverage through government subsidies on state-based insurance exchanges or the expansion of Medicaid enrollment in about half the states.
In the Senate, Minority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, accused Mr. Obama on Tuesday of picking and choosing which laws he wants to implement, even if GOP lawmakers are poised to take advantage of the delay.
"The problems with the mandate will, of course, still be there in 2015, notwithstanding the one-year delay, unilaterally, by the administration," Mr. Cornyn said.
Rep. Todd C. Young, Indiana Republican and the sponsor of the bill to delay the individual mandate, also ridiculed the White House decision this month to delay a key part of its law.
"We're a nation of laws," he said, "not a nation of blog posts."
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