WASHINGTON -- Framing a new argument against President Barack Obama's health care law, congressional GOP leaders called yesterday for a delay in the law's requirement that individual Americans carry health insurance.
If the White House can grant a one-year delay for employers, as the administration did just last week, individuals should get the same consideration, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other senior Republicans said in a letter to the president.
"Your decision to delay one part of the law affecting employers and leave in place provisions regulating individual and family health care creates many new questions and concerns," the GOP leaders wrote. "We agree with you that the burden was overwhelming for employers, but we also believe American families need the same relief."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration has no intention of delaying the individual mandate. He said the law provides financial aid to low-income Americans and is flexible so that people facing financial hardships aren't punished for going without coverage.
The criticism from top Republicans, he said, is "pretty rich coming from leaders who have now voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act going on 40 times, and who promised to do it again, to charge up that hill, only again not to reach the top, rather than focus on the work that the American people want done because they have no alternative."
Asked whether public confidence in the law could be eroded by delays and by the change in the smoking provision, Carney said, "A piece of legislation like this, to be responsibly implemented, needs to be implemented in a flexible way."
Republicans hope their new argument will gain traction in next year's congressional elections, as the law's push to cover the uninsured gets under way. Foes are betting the coverage rollout will be full of problems.