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Health care votes will force House Democrats to choose

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The House is set to vote Wednesday on bills that delay mandates in the new health care law requiring individuals and large employers to have health coverage plans, forcing Democrats to align themselves with their party leader, President Obama, or distance themselves from his contentious reforms.

Republicans called the votes after the White House decided this month to put off, until 2015, a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires companies with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines. 

House GOP leaders said everyday folks should also get a reprieve from the "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to obtain some form of health insurance.

Mr. Obama on Thursday will counter their attempts to punch holes in his signature law with a speech on how the law is already benefiting Americans. 

Additionally, supporters of the law have been buoyed by news out of New York, where officials this week said premiums on the state's health care exchange in 2014 will be about 50 percent lower than last year's direct-pay rates for individuals.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats accused GOP members on Wednesday of trying to strip benefits from the middle class, while Republicans said the other side is inching its way toward a single-payer system directed by Washington.

"A government-run health care system is, at its very basis, a beginning of socialism in medicine, and we oppose that," Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas Republican, said.

A senior Treasury adviser, J. Mark Iwry, told lawmakers the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate was made "sometime in June" but had been considered for a while in coordination with the White House.

The Treasury Department and the White House said that business leaders were concerned about the mandate's complex reporting requirements and that is was more important to implement the law correctly than quickly.

"Some of this stuff is a little bit complicated," Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat, said Wednesday at a hearing on the delay.

But GOP leaders seized on the announcement as proof the law is flawed. They applauded the delay to part of a law they despise, while criticizing the administration for "unilaterally" making the decision to put off something that's written into law. 

"The Constitution makes it clear that Congress writes the law, and the president takes the oath of office to faithfully discharge the laws that are on the books," House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said. "And the idea that the president can merely go out there and make a decision about what he's going to enforce and he isn't going to enforce is fundamentally wrong."

The House bills, which are likely to pass, are certain to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and Mr. Obama has threatened to veto both of the bills — even though one of them seeks to put into law a decision he made two week ago.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Wednesday the president is ready to kill off legislation that "enacts the policy that he himself announced, which is truly surreal."

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