WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 23, 2013
Three weeks ago the American people were joining friends and family to celebrate the July Fourth holiday with hotdogs and fireworks. Little did they know the Obama administration was about to set off some fireworks of its own. Through a blog post on the Treasury Department’s website, the administration announced it would delay for one year enforcement of a vital piece of the recent health care law – the employer mandate.
The delay provides workplaces a temporary reprieve from an onerous mandate; however, it does not alter the fact the law is fatally flawed. Regardless of when the employer mandate is implemented, it will destroy jobs and force Americans to accept part-time work when what they desperately need are full-time jobs. That is why the House will continue to demand permanent relief for all Americans. In the meantime, we will conduct oversight of the president’s decision and determine what it means for our nation’s workplace. Toward that end, there are a number of questions that need to be answered.
For example, does the president have the authority to unilaterally delay enforcement of the law? It is well recognized a president can decide not to enforce a law he believes is unconstitutional. Yet there is nothing in the president’s decision to suggest he believes the employer mandate is unconstitutional. Quite the opposite, President Obama signed the bill into law and his Justice Department defended the law before the Supreme Court. Can a president disregard the law because it’s politically inconvenient or the federal bureaucracy is running behind schedule?
We also have to ask who was involved in this decision and when it was ultimately made. In June Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the full committee that implementation of the law was proceeding along just fine. The senior Democratic member of the committee responded to the secretary’s testimony by saying, “This is all good news and stands in stark contrast to the claims we’ve been hearing from the other side for three years… Now is not the time to reverse course.”
Yet weeks later the administration did just that by reversing course on a critical piece of the president’s signature health care law. Was this a last minute decision with no coordination with other federal agencies? Or was this a carefully orchestrated effort developed long before the decision was announced? Is the administration planning to “reverse course” on other aspects of the law?
We hoped an administration official would provide answers to some of these questions. That is why Chairman Walberg and I invited Howard Shelanski, administrator for the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to testify. However, OMB refused to make Mr. Shelanski available, stating his office was not involved in the employer mandate delay. It is troubling to learn an office in charge of overseeing federal regulatory policy wasn’t involved in this monumental decision, and it simply raises new questions. Congress and the American people deserve answers.
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