House Republicans intend to sue the Obama administration for unilaterally delaying the employer responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act, Politico reported on Thursday, in effect trying to speed up the implementation of the health care law.
The lawsuit will come after the administration twice delayed the provision — which requires employers with more than 50 employees to pay a fine if they don’t offer affordable quality coverage — citing complaints from firms that claimed they wouldn’t be ready to meet its requirement by 2014.
But Republicans did not immediately question the legality of the postponement. Instead, the GOP called on Obama to also delay the individual mandate and vowed to take another vote on the matter.
“Is it fair for the president of the United States to give American businesses an exemption from his health care law’s mandate without giving the same exemption to the rest of America? Hell no, it’s not fair,” Boehner told House Republicans. “We should be thinking about giving the rest of America the same exemption that Obama last week gave businesses.”
House Republicans soon pressed the administration to release its internal communication on the matter and Boehner, in a letter to Obama, even admitted that the employer mandate “cannot be implemented within the current time frame.” The party has referred to the provision as a “jobs killer” and has sought its repeal.
Obama officials initially delayed the provision until 2015 in July of 2103, and announced in February of this year that companies with 50 to 99 employees will have until 2016 to extend insurance to their employees, while larger businesses with 100 or more workers can avoid paying a fine if they offer health care to at least 70 percent of their workers next year, and cover 95 percent of their workers in 2016.
The administration claimed that it was relying on the Treasury Department’s “transition relief” authority, which allows the government to grant relief by section 7805(ca) of the Internal Revenue Code. “The authority has been used to postpone the application of new legislation on a number of prior occasions across Administrations,” Mark J. Mazur, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, wrote in a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and pointed to occasions when the Bush administration cited the authority to delay implementation of laws.
Ninety-six percent of large businesses already provide health care coverage and the law’s employer mandate would only affect an estimated 10,000 businesses or one percent of the U.S. workforce. Ninety-six percent of businesses employer fewer than 50 employees and were not impacted by the delay.
However, even if Boehner wins his legal challenge, which Republicans plan to vote on before leaving for August recess, it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would reach a final decision on his case until June 2016, months after the employer mandate is supposed to go into effect anyway.
“It is disappointing that Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a political stunt,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. “At a time when Washington should be working to expand economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the President on behalf of hardworking Americans.”