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

We're awaiting further guidance from the Obama administration on its decision to delay the ACA's so-called "employer mandate" for a year. But I think we already know enough to say that if this is an attempt to avoid political accountability for controversial parts of Obamacare, as its critics claim, it's an unusually bizarre and self-defeating one.

In fact, I think you can make a decent case that the administration is actually doubling down on the most crucial and politically high-valence part of the law.

Let's start with the easy stuff.

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The Treasury Department announced late Tuesday that it will delay imposition of penalties on large employers who do not provide comprehensive insurance for their employees.

"The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin," Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy, wrote in a blog post on Treasury's website.

The development carries too many implications to count. Politically, the administration is now vulnerable to claims that it is again delaying unpopular provisions of the law until after an important election. It's also reinforcing the notion, propounded by the law's opponents, that the whole thing is an unworkable mess that needs to be repealed.

But the largest implications are substantive.

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Less than a week has passed since the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, and the people who were treated unequally under the law are already seeing major changes.

On Friday, the Obama administration unlocked major benefits for same-sex spouses of federal employees. That evening, the first foreign-born spouse in a same-sex marriage was awarded his green card.

But as we noted Thursday, not all same-sex couples will be treated equally under the law. For same-sex spouses who live in "non-recognition" states, timing and geography will determine whether they're eligible for certain federal spending programs, private benefits, and tax requirements, which are still linked in certain ways to residency and state law.

Before the DOMA ruling, this inequality didn't exist -- all same-sex marriages were equally unequal in the feds' eyes. By creating it, the Court has inadvertently created a whole new set of financial questions, considerations, and predicaments for same-sex spouses.

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Ohio Republicans are still trying to block their governor, John Kasich, from accepting billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid, and are now saddling him with measures that will make it more difficult and obtrusive for women to terminate pregnancies.

The budget thus re-enlists Kasich in ongoing GOP efforts in states and at the federal level to dramatically restrict abortion access but leaves him, like some other GOP governors, at odds with his party over whether to participate in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion.

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The Supreme Court's decision this week to strike Section 3 of DOMA means that agencies of the federal government have to rewrite countless rules and regulations regarding the provision of federal benefits.

It's a daunting process, but one marriage equality advocates will be happy to note is already beginning.

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Now that the Senate's passed an immigration bill, everyone wants to know what the House is going to do, and that's fueling demand for the million or so theories, some more meritorious than others, about what happens next.

The most outside-the-box idea is that the House will ultimately pass the Senate bill because House Democrats will be able to force a vote on it.

Could this happen? Theoretically yes. Is it likely to? Almost definitely not.

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This post was updated at 2:41 p.m.

The unusual nature of the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has created a kind of limbo for conservatives in southern states who want to flood their legislatures with voter ID laws and other disenfranchising policies, and thrown into Congress' lap an unexpected issue that will have enormous ramifications for the 2014 elections and beyond.

Where this all ends, nobody knows, but we're beginning to see how it starts.

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I've noted a few times now that I think House Republicans will have a hard time passing anything anyone might straight-facedly call "comprehensive immigration reform." And for that reason I think there's merit to Chuck Schumer's theory that a big Senate vote is a predicate to ultimately enacting a bill. Under this theory, at some point John Boehner will face a binary choice between allowing the Senate bill to pass, and saddling the GOP with all of the consequences of killing it, and killing it in an unambiguous way. Real bipartisanship in the Senate both ups the pressure on Boehner and gives him cover.

But at the risk of being a wet blanket, I don't think recent history provides any real insight into what Boehner will do.

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Earlier this month, a new group called the Bipartisan Coalition for American Security announced that two former senators -- Scott Brown (R-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) -- would serve as its honorary co-chairs.

BCAS is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization, advocating for greater U.S. interventionism, specifically to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, backed by increased military, diplomatic and military spending, to draw brighter lines between enemies and allies of the United States.

The organization is still in its infancy, and Brown and Lieberman are intended to assure it has real access to power and draw more money and talent in its direction.

That strategy is well worn in Washington D.C., and in this case is being executed by Elliott Broidy.

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Days after President Obama was elected to serve a second term in office, a chastened House Speaker John Boehner did a huge about face on immigration reform.

"This issue has been around far too long," Boehner told ABC News. ''A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."

Coming from a man who'd loudly opposed much more modest immigration measures in the past, and who ostensibly controls the floor of the House of Representatives, his remarks represented a breakthrough -- and a signal that if Republicans would change one thing in the aftermath of the election, it would be their hardline position on immigration.

Now, Boehner will have either have to put his money where his mouth is, or acknowledge implicitly that Republicans learned less than even they claimed to have learned from their defeat in 2012.

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