On the surface, the decision to delay the Obamacare employer mandate is a victory for the bill’s opponents. The granting of this delay highlights the White House failure to effectively implement Obamacare and only further reinforces Republicans’ call for a full repeal of this harmful law.
But while the short term headlines may make The White House uncomfortable, the longer term effect could serve White House policy and political interests more than the original schedule established by the law. As always, be careful what you wish for.
Republicans can’t shriek about the bad policies of Obamacare but also insist on its implementation. I was actually eager to have the 2014 elections take place during the implementation calamity. At least then Americans could voice their feelings about the consequences of Obamacare in real-time with their votes.
The White House decision to delay the employer mandate comes as employers were feeling forced to stop providing their employees with health-care coverage and the health-care exchanges appeared destined to falter. The delay could serve to push people into the exchanges, perhaps salvaging this part of the law.
But this decision must have the president fuming. The White House has granted mercy only because of the looming threat of an election debacle in November 2014. A little mercy now, though, means there will be none later. With the delay in place, the president will have the freedom to exact revenge on the private-sector economy after the midterm elections. The American business community that President Obama so despises may look back on this day with regret. President Obama can get his pound of flesh and more by using the time he has granted to business — but also to himself — to write harsh rules, create penalties and structure a compliance regime that is more to his liking.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats should think the president will care much about what happens in the 2016 elections. Whatever concerns he has about voter retaliation will be exhausted after the 2014 midterms. So over the next year, the administration will be on a mission to co-opt as many private-sector supporters as possible. The public-liaison plan will be to offer reassuring courtesy meetings and friendly — if vague — pro-business rhetoric. All the while, the bureaucracy will be writing the Obamacare rules and making plans to deal decisively with the private sector in 2015.