WASHINGTON — Over objections of most Democrats, the House on Wednesday approved a bill proposed by Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, to delay for a year a mandate that small businesses provide employee health insurance or pay a penalty.
House Republicans pushed the legislation — along with another to delay a similar mandate on individuals — to focus public attention on what they say are burdensome requirements contained in President Obama’s signature health reform legislation.
The Obama administration recently announced a one-year delay in the employer mandate without consulting Congress, something Griffin argues is unconstitutional and unfair to individuals facing similar burdens.
"Mr. President, we are glad you now realize the employer mandate is a burden hurting folks across the country," Griffin said on the House floor.
Griffin told the story of a young business owner in his district being harmed by the mandate that businesses with more than 50 workers offer health insurance or pay a penalty. If he hires additional workers, Griffin said, he will face skyrocketing premiums or tax penalties.
Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, said in an interview that as the owner of a plumbing business he knows first hand how uncertainties over the Affordable Care Act are wreaking havoc on economic growth.
"What small business owner is going to grow if they know that it’s going to add another $100,000 to their bill every year?" he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said delaying both the employer and individual mandate is a matter of fairness.
"To say we are going to relax the mandate for a year on businesses but we are going to continue to stick it to individuals and families is simply, and strictly, unfair," Boehner said.
Democrats claimed that the bills were not a serious legislative effort but political grandstanding.
"This is nothing more than a sorry political stunt," said Rep. John Dingell, R-Mich. "I say shame on those wasting the time of this legislative body."
The Democrats also countered the Republican claims that Obamacare is a train wreck by noting the benefits that Americans are already receiving under the 2009 law.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., pointed to a district-by-district report of ACA benefits that can be found on the website maintained by Democratic-members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The House voted 264 to 161 to pass Griffin’s bill largely along party lines. The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to ignore the bills. President Obama has also threatened to veto them.