Some Republicans are angered that the White House has delayed until 2015 one of Obamacare’s most harmful provisions, the employer insurance mandate, believing it will pull the rug out from plans to make Obamacare the banner issue for 2014.
But that’s a mistake. In fact, it gives Republicans even more ammunition.
The pain that would have been inflicted on employers and the economy had the mandate been applied on schedule would have been hard for Republicans to quantify. Layoffs can be attributed to a variety of causes. The economy seems primed to improve, and the White House would have sold this as evidence Obamacare is not having a negative impact – or that it’s even helping the recovery.
But having to delay a central component of the law is clear evidence that things are broken. Remember, the individual mandate remains on schedule, and amid the confusion of implementing it, Republicans will now have an opening to argue that the entire law is chaotic and unworkable.
Voters will increasingly have the sense that they are being subject to something harmful, written by people who are incompetent. Republicans will be able to propound the general theme that this law is bad for Americans, and that their health care will be in jeopardy once it is subject to bureaucrats who can’t even figure out the rules.
In short, something that was supposed to provide a feeling of safety – a guarantee of insurance – will now be viewed as adding to insecurity.
Having demonstrated that they can ignore the law’s provisions and put things off, the White House officials will come under pressure to delay more of it. And the more things are delayed, the better position Republicans will be in to cancel the law should they capture the White House in 2016.
And those who defend Obamacare have taken a brisk blow to the gut. The White House, which has sought to portray things as moving along nicely, is now all but acknowledging that things are not humming smoothly and that the law may indeed be harmful.
Instead of having to try to prove that Obamacare is an unwieldy mess that is damaging businesses and causing unemployment, Republicans can showcase Exhibit A – the Obama administration’s own decision to delay the employer mandate until after the election.
It will be hard, with the mess undergirding this law exposed, for Democrats to argue that Congress needs additional Democrats to write more such bills.