House votes to delay Affordable Care Act mandates

July 17, 2013 at 8:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. House voted 251-174 Wednesday to delay for one year the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The vote immediately followed a 264-161 vote to authorize the delay of the employer mandate, which the Obama administration this month said it would postpone for one year to give U.S. employers "more time to comply with the new rules."

Thirty-five Democrats voted with Republicans to delay the employer mandate, while 22 Democrats voted to delay the individual mandate.

"I believe they've run out of excuses, they've run out of ideas, and now they're starting to backpedal," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was quoted by Politico as saying.

"Why is it that under this White House, Warren Buffett gets a break from Obamacare, but Joe Six-Pack, the single mom ... they don't get a break?" asked Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, a top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.

President Barack Obama will veto the measures, the White House said earlier. The administration "strongly opposes" the delays, a White House statement said.

Obama will deliver remarks at the White House Thursday to discuss how the ACA is holding insurance companies accountable and "putting money back into the pockets of over 8.5 million Americans, the White House said Wednesday.

The employer mandate requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to purchase health insurance or face penalties. The individual mandate requires the same thing for most Americans.

The back-to-back votes Wednesday seek to codify the White House's delay and match it with a one-year delay of the individual provision.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said earlier on the House floor the vote would "make sure that families and individuals get the same break from Obamacare that the president gave big businesses."

The House votes are widely seen as symbolic. Neither bill is expected to pass the Senate, controlled by Democrats.

Republicans said the votes would force Democrats to align with Obama or distance themselves from the overhaul.

"I think most Democrats will stick together," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the No. 2 House Democrat, told reporters.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which provides economic data to Congress, said Tuesday delaying the individual mandate would reduce the deficit while increasing premiums.

The office did not produce a cost estimate for delaying the employer mandate.

The House has voted 37 times to repeal Obama's signature healthcare law The U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the law's constitutionality in June 2012.

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