Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Obama Administration Issues Defense of Employer Mandate Postponement

By Emily Ethridge, CQ Roll Call

July 10, 2013 -- A Treasury Department official in a letter released by Democrats last week continued to defend the legality of the administration's decision to delay for one year enforcement of the 2010 health care law's requirement that most employers offer health insurance.

Several Republicans have questioned the administration's legal authority to delay enforcing certain provisions of the law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) after the administration announced the postponement July 2. The two-page letter, as well as comments in a briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, represented the most extensive explanation so far of the surprising move by the administration, which was announced in an evening blog post.

Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury, in the letter provided information on why the administration made the decision, in response to an inquiry from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton.

Mazur also noted the department's "long-standing administrative authority to grant transition relief when implementing new legislation like the ACA," referring to the health law. He cited section 7805(a) of the tax code, which Treasury officials have previously pointed to in defense of the decision. That reads, in part, that the "Secretary shall prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement of this title, including all rules and regulations as may be necessary by reason of any alteration of law in relation to internal revenue."

"This authority has been used to postpone the application of new legislation on a number of prior occasions across Administrations," Mazur wrote in the July 9 letter to Upton, R-Mich. The letter was released by Democratic members of Energy and Commerce.

At the White House, Carney also defended the administration's decision in a recent press conference, saying there are numerous examples of laws being delayed during implementation.

"This is not an unusual process," said Carney, who directed reporters to look in the Federal Register for examples of delays.

"People who suggest that there's anything unusual about the delaying of a deadline and the implementation of a complex and comprehensive law are, you know, deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or are just willfully ignorant about past precedent," he said.

As examples, Mazur cited an aviation fuel tax (PL 112-27) Obama signed Aug. 5, 2011, that applied retroactively to July 23, 2011. The administration delayed enforcement until Aug. 9, 2011. Mazur also cited a 2007 small-business bill (PL 110-28) that made changes to standards for tax return preparers to avoid paying penalties effective May 25 of that year. But the IRS announced it would not enforce the new rules on returns due before 2008.

Mazur's response is unlikely to satisfy the several Republicans who say the administration is overstepping its authority. In response to a request from Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released an analysis that found there "may be major obstacles" to a decision in the courts on the administration's legal authority.

In a written statement, Roe said the CRS report "confirms that there are significant questions about the legality of the administration's actions."

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has also questioned the administration's legal authority.

Mazur said the decision to delay the requirements was made after extensive conversations with stakeholders and a review of comments requesting a transition period. The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer affordable health insurance or pay a penalty.

Mazur emphasized that the delay of the employer requirement does not affect access to premium tax credits or the effective date of any other provision of the law.

In the letter to Upton, he said the delay will give the administration more time to find ways to simplify reporting requirements, and provides more time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems.

"We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health coverage to their workers, and we want to make sure that businesses are able to comply with the reporting requirements effectively and efficiently," Mazur wrote.

The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the delay July 18, and the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold its second hearing on the topic July 17 with a representative from Treasury.

Publication Details