The House’s vote this week to delay both the employer and individual mandates exposed the cracks in Democrats’ unity behind the health care law and provided Republicans a springboard to keep the pressure on both the Senate and President Obama ahead of next year’s elections.
After 22 Democrats joined the GOP in a vote to put off the individual mandate by a year, and 35 voted for a one-year break for employers, House Speaker John A. Boehner said bipartisanship was “alive and well.”
“The Senate should take it up immediately,” Mr. Boehner said. “But we can’t stop there. House Republicans will continue our efforts to fully repeal the president’s health care law in its entirety once and for all.”
Sensing they have momentum, Republicans used Wednesday’s votes to try to blunt the impact of Mr. Obama’s speech Thursday, where he pointed to Americans who are benefiting from the law.
“Mr. President, the American people just aren’t buying it,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said. “Worse for the administration, just yesterday 22 House Democrats voted with House Republicans to delay two key components of Obamacare — even they know this law is not ready for prime time.”
Joined at the White House by families who have benefited from the health care law, Mr. Obama said he was undeterred by the House’s decisions and mocked his Republican critics for “refighting these old battles.”
“I recognize that there’s still a lot of folks in this town at least who are rooting for this law to fail,” Mr. Obama said. “Some of them seem to think this law is about me. It’s not — I already have really good health care.”
Republicans had designed this week’s one-two punch to drive home a narrative that Democrats and their leader in the White House are putting big business over everyday folks, and they highlighted the 13 lawmakers who voted to delay the business requirements, but not the individual mandate.
“Inexplicably, Gerald Connolly voted to delay the mandate for employers, but not for middle-class families. He should be ashamed of himself,” the National Republican Congressional Committee said Thursday in a statement that singled out the Virginia Democrat. A spokesman for Mr. Connolly could not be reached.
Mr. Connolly supported the Affordable Care Act when it passed Congress in 2010, as did 11 other Democrats who voted this week for the one-year delay of the employer mandate. Five of those who voted for the delay also voted against the law in 2010.
Another 18 weren’t in Congress at the time, and Wednesday’s vote gave them their first chance to weigh in on the provision without having to condemn the entire law.
Rep. John K. Delaney, a freshman Maryland Democrat who voted to delay the employer mandate but not the individual mandate, said he wants to implement the law “effectively and efficiently and modify it as appropriate.”
Meanwhile, some of the Democrats who voted to delay both mandates said they still support the law, but the country needs some breathing room to implement it correctly.
It is unlikely the Democrat-controlled Senate will take up the measure, and Mr. Obama has said he will veto both bills if they reach his desk.
In his speech on Thursday the president made no mention of his administration’s decision on July 2 to delay the employer mandate, which means its penalties will not take effect until after the mid-term elections.
But earlier this week, he called the House’s bill to codify the decision “unnecessary” because he’s already taken the same action on his own.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats and who voted for the health law, said there is little pressure for them to revisit it.
He cited dozens of Republican-led attempts — many disagree on the exact number, or have lost count — to repeal all or part of the law.
“What is this, the 47th time?” Mr. Sanders said. “[There is] about as much pressure as the 46th time.”