December 24, 2013
Last July, after President Obama unilaterally delayed the Obamacare employer mandate for a year, House Republicans asked why the break should apply only to businesses. Why shouldn’t individuals be relieved of the burden, too?
So the House voted, 251 to 174, to delay the individual mandate. Twenty-two Democrats joined Republicans in voting for delay. A total of 174 Democrats voted to keep the mandate as is.
Of course the move went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But that was before Obamacare implementation began Oct. 1. It was before the canceled policies, the higher premiums, the higher deductibles, and narrower doctor networks that have come to define Obamacare for millions of Americans.
In light of that, it seems possible that in recent months some House Democrats might have changed their minds on the individual mandate. After all, in the Senate, six Democrats last week asked the Department of Health and Human Services to delay the mandate for people whose policies had been canceled. It was a focused “hardship exemption,” but when the administration agreed, it became the first hole in the individual mandate. It seems likely there will be more.
That should be a message to House Republicans: It’s time to take another vote on the individual mandate. Would those 174 Democrats who stood firmly behind the mandate in July still be there now? Or will the 22 who voted to delay the mandate be joined by more who are worried by what they’ve seen since October?
If House Republicans want to highlight Democratic nervousness about Obamacare, focusing on the individual mandate is a good way to do it.