The Obama administration and its allies were on the defensive Wednesday about its low-key announcement that the government will delay a key employer-mandate portion of the new health care law for a year, a move that Republicans quickly cited as more proof of the program’s looming failure.
Former presidential adviser David Axelrod said Mr. Obama always knew that implementation of the law was “not going to be smooth,” and he said the White House is “smart” to address the concerns of larger employers.
“It behooves the administration to listen to stakeholders where there are concerns and questions to work through those questions,” Mr. Axelrod said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
He blamed Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, for working to scuttle the law.
“I think one of the great obstacles here is that there are a lot of folks who want to see this fail and are eager to jump on these kinds of stories,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Mitch McConnell has been leading the charge. … He is all about the tea party these days because he’s worried about a primary [challenge].
Mr. Axelrod added that Mr. McConnell has “hired Rand Paul’s campaign manager and now he can’t be active enough in trying to scuttle the Affordable Care Act. So these are obstacles that other programs haven’t faced.”
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The administration announced Tuesday in two blog posts that the requirement for businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance or face a fine would be postponed until 2015, a deadline that now comes after the midterm elections. Employers have complained loudly about the burden of complying with the new regulation.
The low-profile announcement came as the president was flying home from Africa. And with the Independence Day holiday falling on Thursday, the timing of the announcement virtually assured that Mr. Obama won’t face any questions about the decision until sometime next week at the earliest.
Republicans said the move was more evidence that implementation of the law is a “train wreck.”
“This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms,” said Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, complained that the administration was not giving individuals or families a similar one-year extension from coverage requirements. He said it “shows how deeply flawed the president’s signature domestic policy achievement is.”
Mr. Axelrod said the decision “was motivated less by the midterm elections than by the concern that this thing work properly.” And he said the Republicans have no alternative.
SEE ALSO: Obamacare’s employer mandate delayed to 2015
“They need to work on that,” he said of the GOP. “They need to work on what they’re for, and not just on what they’re against.”