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MICHELLE OBAMA: While people are sort of sorting through our shoes and our hair, whether we cut it or not.
LAURA BUSH: Whether we had bangs.
OBAMA: Whether we have bangs.
OBAMA: (inaudible) I didn't call that one.
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ROBERTS: Do you think you get put in a box?
MICHELLE OBAMA: Absolutely.
LAURA BUSH: Yeah, a little bit.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Absolutely. I constantly get asked, especially in the first term are you more like Laura Bush or are you more like Hillary Clinton? And I'm like is that it? Those are the two choices?
LAURA BUSH: Reporters said, are you Hillary Clinton or Barbara Bush?
MICHELLE OBAMA: That's right.
LAURA BUSH: And I always just said, well, I think I'll be Laura Bush. I knew Laura Bush pretty well.
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KARL: Great moment there, First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush with our own Cokie Roberts. We'll talk about that in a bit. But first our roundtable is here. Cokie of course, George is back with us. Also Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, and ABC's Political Director, Rick Klein. Thank you all.
George, the real big political story this week was a significant setback for the White House on the health care law. Delaying the implementation of the employer mandate that requires all companies over 50 employees to provide health care. How big a setback? What's going on?
WILL: They're changing the law. We have a Treasury Secretary, we have three Deputy Treasury Secretaries, underneath whom there are 12 Assistant Secretaries. Late Tuesday afternoon they sent out one of the 12. Didn't send him out, he did a web posting. It said by the way, the law passed by Congress that makes no provision for waiving this, shall be waived.
KARL: By the way they did this while the entire White House Press Corps from Tanzania on a 20 hour a flight. But anyway.
WILL: Here's the problem. In addition to the fact that Obamacare is hideously complicated, Rube Goldberg contraption, beyond that, it puts in place perverse incentives. The employer mandate says if you have 50 or more full-time employees and until Congress changes this, which it will, it defines full-time employees as 30 hours a week, you have to pay a substantial sum for each of their health care.
Now, the employers not being dummies have said, well let's have fewer employers and make many of the employees we have part-time employees.
KARL: Working 29-1/2 hours.
WILL: What Obamacare requires for it to work, mass irrationality, both on the part of employers to ignore that incentive and on the part of young people who are supposed to pay 3, 4, 5 times more for health insurance than it would cost them to just pay the fine and ignore it.
KARL: Now Donna a lot on the left were unhappy with this. A lot of progressives said why are letting employers off the hook?
BRAZILE: Well first of all as Mark Twain once said, the death of Obamacare is greatly exaggerated. Look 96% of businesses that with 50%, 50 or more employers (sic) already provide health insurance. So this is not going to delay the implementation. It's not going to delay the law. The law will still go in effect on October 1, 2013.
With respect to the health exchanges George there's an 800 number so you don't have to text. It's 318-2596 consumer call numbers. They're already providing information for people who are confused. It is a very complex law. It's a large bill but --
ROBERTS: It is complex and when Massachusetts went through it they also, they had similar difficulties and it was just one state and a fairly sophisticated state. But look this works for the president in the long run politically. Even though he's going to take a lot of flack on it right now. Because it delays implementation until after 2014. And of the parts that people are most upset about and then there is an intervening election, as they say. So that is helpful to him.
I do think however that Republicans are telling me that they that they think that they can now rev up the conversation on Obamacare again which they love. Because they think that's a strong suit for them. And hope that immigration goes off the front pages as a result of it.
KARL: Well Rick they've tried 43 times is it, to repeal Obamacare and the administration was able to do something that the Congress has not been able to, repeal at least a part of it.
KLEIN: That's right and let's get ready for number 44 after this. Look you have even Democrats saying that implementing Obamacare has the potential to be a train wreck. Well now you have the prospect of a slow motion train wreck. And here's the thing about this particular provision, this effects thousands of workers maybe. Not the millions of workers who are going to be impacted over the long haul on this. So if you couldn't even get this piece of it right after a three year ramp up period, you're saying you need another year and a half just to put in this tiny slice of Obamacare --
ROBERTS: But it's not a tiny slice. This is huge. I mean employer mandates are by far the toughest part of it.
KLEIN: It's the toughest to implement but it's by no means the most complicated in terms of the number of people involved.
KARL: But it was going to affect more, I mean every employer because of the paperwork requirements.
ROBERTS: Right and, and who's going to, who is enforcing it? That's the other big question. And at the moment, apparently nobody. It's self, self-reported. But the, all of that is genuinely complicated. So there are policy reasons for delaying it as well as political reasons.
BRAZILE: But Cokie, what's happening right now is that HHS is giving out grants to states to open up these health care centers.
BRAZILE: The individual mandate provisions will still be in effect. Young people will continue to sign up. They're learning more about this program. So it's moving. But it's not moving as fast as some people --
ROBERTS: Both you know, both sides are going after --
KARL: George quickly, then I want to get --
WILL: Young people, young people are not going to sign up if they can do elementary arithmetic, which they can. Second, why not just --
BRAZILE: If their mama tell them to sign up they're going to sign up.
WILL: That's not the way my children behave.
WILL: Why indeed not suspend the individual mandate? Because the law doesn't provide it? The law means nothing to these people? And by the way, this is why Cokie, this is going to affect the immigration debate. Because the House Republicans are going to say, no matter what we write in the law, this administration will waive any provision it doesn't like.