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Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Brian

House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the House will vote next week on legislation to delay both the employer and individual mandates in the Affordable Care Act by one year.

“Next week the House will vote to delay both the employer mandate and the individual mandate," he told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing.

House GOP leadership first floated this strategy at a GOP conference meeting earlier this week. 

 

At his weekly Capitol briefing Thursday, Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that passing immigration legislation will require Democratic cooperation, underscoring the challenge he'll face if he simultaneously insists on both securing support from the majority of his conference while relying on cross-aisle votes to get bills passed in the House. 

"It's going to take some bipartisan cooperation to move this process along," he said. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi laid out her conditions for bipartisan cooperation in an interview with TPM on Tuesday.

Let's kick things off on a high note today: A body doesn't become a corpse until sometime after it loses its pulse. That might not be strictly correct biologically speaking. Biologists probably don't refer to dead bodies as corpses. But metaphysically, it's possible for a human who has flatlined to be resuscitated and then return to health.

Which brings me to immigration reform.

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House Speaker John Boehner is encouraging his members to support a crafty legislative response to the Obama administration's decision to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, according to a highly placed GOP source.

The strategy is two pronged. First, House Republicans would introduce legislation to effectively authorize the employer mandate delay by statute -- effectively making the administration's decision explicitly lawful. Subsequently, the House would vote on companion legislation to delay the law's individual mandate by one year as well, creating a moral conundrum for Democrats, who have supported the reprieve for large employers.

"The president delayed Obamacare's employer mandate, but he hasn't delayed Obamacare's individual mandate that impacts individuals and families," Boehner told his members at a conference meeting Tuesday morning, according to a source in the room. "This is indefensible. Is it fair for the president of the United States to give American businesses an exemption from his health care law's mandates, without giving the same exemption to the rest of America? Hell no, it's not fair."

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The already narrow path to enacting comprehensive immigration reform pretty much disappeared in the past 24 hours.

At the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner stated a specific policy preference Tuesday that will alienate the entire Democratic Party if he adheres to it, and thus doom the reform effort. And elsewhere in the Beltway, influential conservatives have grown more confident and explicit about abandoning the immigration issue, for at least a couple of years.

Taken together, it means that enacting new immigration legislation will either require Democrats to cave on a key demand, or require Boehner to abandon his preference and break his word to his conference that he won't move ahead without a majority of his members in support.

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House GOP leaders have formally requested intra-administration analysis from President Obama regarding the decision to delay the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate provision by one year.

Specifically, they want to know how what the administration believes the budgetary, economic, and coverage-related consequences of the delay will be, and thus determine the extent to which the decision was rooted in policy objectives over politics.

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While Republicans settle on a least-bad immigration strategy, it's dawned on reform opponents and their conservative allies that if the effort dies in the House, they'll need to bring a plausible excuse to the public -- that is, if they hope to sidestep at least some of the blame for the debacle.

And they think they've found one.

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The news that the Obama administration will delay by one year a requirement that large employers either provide employees affordable insurance or pay a penalty came as a surprise to Obamacare's staunchest allies, and even to the people in government tasked with implementing other parts of the law.

It's an undeniable fact that the so-called "employer mandate" is poorly designed and creating real challenges for businesses and workers alike. When critics of the law cite the delay as evidence of an implementation "train wreck," in other words, they're being tendentious, and thinking wishfully, but there's a kernel of truth to it.

But if the employer mandate snafu were as bad and as symptomatic as Republicans would have you believe, they'd treat it as vindication -- a cause for celebration. As we and others have reported, though, the employer mandate exists at the margins of the law's core functions. The decision to delay it for a year sidelines one liability that would have harmed the law's rollout, robs Republicans (temporarily, but during an election year) of a legitimate public critique of the law's real-life effects, and ironically strengthens the state-based insurance exchanges, which are the must-work components of the ACA.

Thus Republicans are torn between a feeling of satisfaction that the administration has effectively copped to the employer mandate's problems, and of frustration that a problematic provision won't be taking effect right away, before next year's midterm elections.

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The U.S. economy added 195,000 jobs in June, according to an initial Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued Friday morning, exceeding analyst expectations and suggesting the economic recovery is enduring despite the contractionary effects of sequestration and higher taxes that took effect earlier this year, and recent statements from the Federal Reserve indicating an eagerness to begin winding down its stimulative policies.

The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 7.6 percent, but that's notably not a reflection of inadequate job-creation, which on its own can sustain the current unemployment rate with fewer than 100,000 new payrolls a month.

Instead, the uptick is due to a welcome increase in the size of the labor force.

The best news in the report comes in revisions to previous months' employment figures, which are subject to much less statistical uncertainty.

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Late on Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that it intends to exempt large employers who don't offer insurance to their workers from steep Obamacare-imposed penalties for one year -- an implementation delay it claims is intended to streamline employer participation in the Affordable Care Act, and work out some kinks that were expected to impose hardships on employees and businesses alike.

The announcement is catnip for Obamacare critics, who are intent on portraying every implementation hiccup as the sound of a law groaning atop a fatally flawed foundation.

The reality is much different. The employer mandate decision does reflect some real problems with the measure itself. But those problems exist at the margins of the law's core functions. And ironically, the solution will increase the pressure the administration is under to get the core of the law right. But broadly speaking the uproar amounts to much ado about very little.

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