An announcement last week by Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Mark Mazur that his department would delay for one year a key component of the healthcare law — penalizing companies that fail to provide insurance coverage for their employees — has prompted House Republicans to question whether federal officials have the authority for such action.
Mazur had explained the reason for the delay: “We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively. We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action.”
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) responded in a statement, "This action raises a lot of questions about whether the Obama administration can simply ignore the law when it's convenient for them," adding that he's asked the Congressional Research Service to "investigate" the issue "because I don't think any president has the authority to pick and choose what parts of law to follow."
An official at the Treasury Department asserted that the delay is well within the administration’s rights as “an exercise of the administrative authority” under the IRS code. The official told Fox News that the department has the authority to “grant transition relief when implementing new legislation” such as the healthcare law.
The Daily Caller notes that the administration may be able to defend its decision to delay the employer mandate because the law allows it the authority to schedule reporting requirements.
However, the law does not allow the administration to stop collecting tax penalties.
In a blog post, University of Michigan assistant professor Nicholas Bagley wrote,
[The law] is blunt that it "hereby impose[s] on the employer an assessable payment for failing to adhere to the employer mandate."
The natural inference is that the penalty comes into force on January 1, 2014, whether or not the agency has the reporting machinery in place to administer it.
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