WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans voted on Wednesday to delay core provisions of President Barack Obama's health care law, emboldened by the administration's concession that requiring companies to provide coverage for their workers next year may be too complicated.
The House voted largely along party lines, 264-161, to delay by one year the so-called employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. It voted 251-174 to extend a similar grace period to virtually all Americans who will be required to obtain coverage beginning Jan. 1, the linchpin of the law.
All Ohio Valley lawmakers voted in favor of the measures.
The dual votes marked the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the unpopular law since Republicans became the majority party the House in January 2011. The House legislation stands no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The goal of the health care law is to provide coverage to nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance and lower skyrocketing costs. But in the three years since Obama signed his divisive law, the public remains highly skeptical and the administration's abrupt decision earlier this month to delay the employer provision only fueled more doubts.
"This administration cannot make its own law work," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, during House debate.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the decision was "a clear signal that even the administration doesn't believe the country is ready to sustain the painful economic impact this law will have."
Eager to counter the Republican charge, Obama plans to deliver remarks today focusing on rebates that consumers are already receiving from insurance companies under the health care law.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama will draw attention to the 8.5 million consumers who have received an average consumer rebate of about $100. Carney also highlighted reports that some states are already anticipating lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act.
"Competition and transparency in the marketplaces, plus the hard effort by those committed to making the law work, are leading to affordable, new and better choices for families," Carney said.
The House vote delaying the employer requirement codified the administration's decision, but the White House insisted it was unnecessary and issued its usual veto threat.
Republicans read aloud the complaints of union leaders about the unintended consequences of the law on workers' hours, with companies scaling back work time to avoid providing health coverage. They cited labor's statement that it voted for Democrats and expected them to address the problem.
The unions - including the Teamsters - wrote to Democrats last week that the law's requirements have created an incentive to limit workers' hours. The law created a new definition of full-time workers, those putting in 30 hours or more.
"Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios," the union leaders wrote.