House votes to delay Obamacare individual mandate

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., debates two bills that would delay parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., debates two bills that would delay parts of the Affordable Care Act.

It didn’t work the first 37 times, but that didn’t stop Republicans in the House Wednesday from passing two bills aimed at adjusting key parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The House of Representatives voted 264-161 to pass a bill that would delay for one year the Affordable Care Act’s provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that another key part of the Affordable Care Act, the section that mandates employers with 50 or more people help provide health insurance to their employees, would be delayed for one year until 2015. Today the House voted 251-174 to pass a bill that would make this employer mandate announcement a law.

Both bills were sent to the Democratically-controlled Senate, where they will not be taken up for debate. The White House has already said it would veto either bill.

It’s the 38th time since Republicans took control of the House in January, 2011 that they have voted on repealing, defunding, or changing the landmark health law passed in 2010.

Members of Congress spent hours passionately debating the two bills on the House floor Wednesday.

House Republicans were using these two bills and the Obama administration’s recent decision to delay the employer mandate’s implementation to jab at Obamacare. “They’re finally admitting this is a train wreck and it is not ready for primetime,” said Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn.

Republicans supporting H.R. 2667, the employer mandate bill, asserted that adjusting legislation should be the job of Congress, not the executive branch.

“In our constitution, it is the Congress that writes the laws and the president who executes the laws. He doesn’t get to choose which laws he wants to enforce selectively,” Rep. Paul Ryan said on the House floor. “This law is unraveling before us.”

“I know about enforcing laws. I was a cop for 33 years. You don’t pick and choose. You enforce the law. That’s what this president should do, and we’re making a law in line with what this president wants,” added Rep. Dave Reichert, Washington Republican.

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined the floor to say the debates and votes were a waste of time. “This matter has been settled in Congress, in the courts, and at the ballot box,” she said.

“These two bills are nonsense and completely unnecessary,” said Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind. “One is doing what the Obama administration has already said they would do. And that is to delay the employer reporting requirements because of the feedback they got from businesses large and small and from associations who said not that they can’t do it. They just need a little bit more time in implementing it.”

While they pointed out that Republican efforts on the bills would ultimately prove to be fruitless with a Democratically-controlled Senate and White House, Democrats took the opportunity to stand on the House floor throughout the afternoon and praise the benefits of Obamacare.

“We’re back in the theater of the absurd,” said Rep. Jim McDermitt, a Washington Democrat. “What we’re hearing right now is the sound of Republican heart rates from going up. ‘Obamacare is coming.’ These last benefits are going to happen like it or not, and worse, they’re going to work.”

“I’ve been here for four decades and never seen legislation just completely be ignored,” said New York Rep. Charlie Rangel. “I’m thoroughly convinced that the Republican majority are not the least bit concerned about health care, because if they were, they’d have a health care plan.”

Fellow Democratic New York Congressman Joseph Crowley added, “I’ve even heard reports that some opponents of the law are urging people to burn their so-called ‘Obamacare cards’ and not buy insurance in protest. As an aside, I would want to point out for my colleagues, there’s no such thing as an ‘Obamacare card.’ So be careful not to burn your fingers when you’re using your imaginary prop.”

There were 35 Democrats who voted for the bill that would make the employer mandate’s one-year delay a law, and 22 Democrats voted to delay the individual mandate.

Watch House members debate the bills on the floor:

House votes to delay Obamacare individual mandate