House Speaker John Boehner ridiculed the Obama administration today for taking a loose interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s deadlines as the law is implemented — a decision he said will render the reforms “meaningless.”
“[President Obama] hasn’t put enough loopholes into the law already. The administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. What the hell is this? A joke?” Boehner incredulously asked reporters at his news conference in the Capitol. “This is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the laws for its own convenience and it’s not hard to understand why the American people question this administration’s commitment to the rule of law.”
On Tuesday, the administration announced individuals may obtain health coverage under Obamacare after the March 31 deadline as long as they claimed to have attempted to enroll before the deadline but could not complete the process.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to turn the tables on Boehner, saying that the joke is actually on him.
“The joke, I say to my dear friend John Boehner, is him having more than 60 votes over there to terminate Obamacare,” Reid, D-Nev., said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’re at a point now where it really does appear to be extremely disingenuous that they oppose anything that’s good about Obamacare, anything good about anything this administration tries to do.”
Reid defended the administration’s announcement as “the right thing to do.”
“There’s no hiccup or delay. We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up and they didn’t get through,” Reid said. “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet and these people need a little extra time.”
Asked by ABC News to expand on his characterization of the law as “a joke,” Boehner placed blame on the entire enrollment process.
“March 31st is the end of the signups for this year, but the administration last night came out and said, ‘Well, we’re going to give you until April 15th if you’ve started the process,’ but it’s under the honor system,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. “Why don’t they just say we’ve moved the date to April the 15th because that’s in effect what they’ve done.”
Boehner recalled that the law was passed when Democrats reigned over the House, Senate and White House — and the legislation passed without any Republican support.
“The law says that enrollment stops at the end of March. That’s what the law says,” he said. “You know, I’ve got to live by the law. You’ve got to live by the law. The American people have to live by the law and guess what? The president needs to live by the law as well.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, charged that the law is “unraveling before our very eyes”
“The administration has now handed out so many waivers, special favors, and exemptions to help Democrats out politically, that the heart of the law — the individual mandate — may no longer even be viable,” he said during a speech on the Senate floor. “It’s basically become the legal equivalent of Swiss cheese.”
Asked whether Republicans intend to put legislation on the floor to replace the Affordable Care Act, the speaker said the Republicans’ goal “is to show the American people what we believe would work better when it comes health insurance and our health care system.”
“We’ve got a challenge to show people that we’re the party of better ideas,” he said. “We’ve got ideas.”
Still, Boehner indicated it could be some time before those ideas are worked into legislation.
“We’re going to continue to roll them out as we develop them,” he said.
ABC News’ Arlette Saenz contributed to this report