White House Press Secretary Jay Carney listens to media questions during his daily news briefing at the White House, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Washington. Carney spoke about press access to the President Barack Obama, preexisting conditions as it pertains to the Affordable care act, unemployment benefits and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The Post reports: “For the second time in a year, the Obama administration is giving certain employers extra time before they must offer health insurance to almost all their full-time workers. Under new rules announced Monday by Treasury Department officials, employers with 50 to 99 workers will be given until 2016 — two years longer than originally envisioned under the Affordable Care Act — before they risk a federal penalty for not complying.” For larger companies it is even worse: “Instead of being required in 2015 to offer coverage to 95 percent of full-time workers, these bigger employers can avoid a fine by offering insurance to 70 percent of them next year.”

Except for the die-hard Obama spinners, there was widespread recognition that this is another Hail Mary as the clock runs down to the November elections. (“Many across the ideological spectrum viewed them as an effort by the White House to defuse another health-care controversy before the fall midterm elections.”) The administration managed to annoy many employers and even “consumer advocates, usually reliable White House allies.” The administration’s decision to again delay the employer mandate provoked the expected reaction from Obamacare critics.

“President Obama and Democrats on the ballot in 2014 are once again trying to deceive voters by hiding the harmful impact that ObamaCare has on employers, businesses and workers. Democrats seem to believe that because they control Washington, they have imperial powers, but their lawlessness creates even more energy and enthusiasm to elect a Republican Senate majority in 2014,” scoffed the National Republican Senatorial Committee in an e-mail blast barely disguising the glee with which the GOP greets more evidence of Obamacare’s collapse.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put out a statement decrying the move: “Much like the individual mandate, the business mandate is bad for middle class families and it will harm economic growth, but the answer to this problem is not random unilateral changes, stoking uncertainty. House Republicans opposed ObamaCare when it was passed precisely because of the negative effects the President is now trying to hide. It’s time to stop creating more chaos, and delay ObamaCare for all Americans.”

The move has several ramifications.

First, it puts Obamacare and its failures front and center. There may be momentary distractions on Iran, immigration or the debt, but Obamacare casts a shadow over the Obama presidency.

Second, it puts red-state Democrats in the hot seat again. Tim Miller of the opposition-research group America Rising tells Right Turn, “Red-state Democrats just want to talk about distancing themselves from Obamacare to try to save political face without actually doing anything substantive to fix it. The Democrats are all-in on Obamacare. They don’t have the support for any alternative. So the only option left is for President Obama to subvert the legislative process to try and stave off disaster until after the midterms.” He argues, “It isn’t going to work.”

Third, this will be used to justify the House’s pause on immigration reform. Those concerned about the president making unilateral moves get another “I told you so.” (As I’ve previously said, this is a weak excuse given the law could go into effect after he leaves office; nevertheless, it’s fodder for the anti-reform base.) Even immigration reform proponents concede this is a far more productive topic for Republicans right now.

Fourth, it will fuel the effort to tie Hillary Clinton to the Dems’ worst domestic debacle since, well, Hillarycare failed in the 1990s. The Associated Press pops up with a timely report (eagerly highlighted by Republicans) that explains, “Hillary Clinton, once President Barack Obama’s political foe, emerged as his top ally on what would become his signature policy achievement: revamping the U.S. health-care system.” That the secretary of state was acting in such a naked partisan role is disturbing, but there is no doubt she intervened with lawmakers and cabinet members nervous about the political ramifications of the bill. (In retrospect, they had the more accurate political radar.) If Hillary Clinton is running on the “third Obama term,” Republicans will be thrilled.

Whatever moves the White House makes to rescue Obamacare from utter disaster simply perpetuate the impression that the law is a mess. Republicans would be wise to roll out an alternative that gets the mess off the books and replaces it with something user-friendly, noncompulsory and less disruptive. Grading on a curve against Obamacare, it should be easy to get high marks.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.