Should Republicans try to delay the individual mandate again?
Byron York thinks so, and for good reason; the landscape has changed so radically that Democrats might be forced into voting for a delay. When a vote for delaying the mandate was taken last summer, 22 Democrats joined with all Republicans in support of the measure. What about now?
[I]t 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.
The coercive, unwanted mandate is by far the most unpopular feature of the law. When the New York Times recently asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the part in the 2010 health care law requiring nearly all Americans to have health insurance coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty?" a full 68 percent said they disapproved, while just 31 percent approved.
When the Times polled only those Americans without health insurance - the group supposed to benefit most from Obamacare - 77 percent disapproved of the individual mandate, while just 21 percent approved.
So almost nobody likes it. But here's the thing: The individual mandate is the heart of Obamacare. From the president on down, administration officials believe that without the mandate, the system won't work. So the one thing the public hates most is the one thing Obamacare can't do without. For many Democrats, voting against the mandate, even delaying the mandate, is tantamount to repealing Obamacare altogether. They can't do it, no matter what the voters think.
How about making a mandate delay the first order of business when Congress returns after the first of the year? While there has been a surge in sign-ups on the Obamacare website, it will probably be nowhere near what they need to make the program work.
With an Obamacare meltdown becoming a real possibility, might a delay in the individual mandate be seen as common sense and thus, attract a lot of Democratic support even in the Senate? York points out why this isn't likely, but Obama isn't running for anything anymore and all these Democrats will eventually have to face the voters. At the very least, Republicans could put Democrats on the record as supporting the unpopular mandate, thus giving many GOP candidates an opening for attack.
For those reasons, another bite at the mandate delay apple is warranted.