In the wake of the Obama administration's announcement to delay financial penalties for companies that do not offer employees health insurance, former Sen. Olympia Snowe says both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the mess created by the comprehensive health care law known as Obamacare.
The moderate Maine Republican played a key role in helping to write some of the law and was the only Republican to give a committee version of it a vote of approval. But she pulled back support for the measure after the final draft was unveiled, calling on the White House and Democratic lawmakers to slow down and craft a more workable law. In the process, she incurred the anger of Democrats who said she was playing coy simply to doom the bill and Republicans who faulted her with working across the aisle at all.
Now, out of office, Snowe is in the position of saying the equivalent of 'I told you so.'
"That was a major question from the outset – whether that was going to be a disincentive for continuing specific positions or simply dropping health insurance altogether," Snowe tells U.S. News. "The fact is, in order to avoid the employer mandate there were going to be ways to circumvent the law."
In a post on the White House Blog, a top adviser to President Barack Obama outlined the reason for the delay.
"As we implement this law, we have and will continue to make changes as needed; in our ongoing discussions with businesses we have heard that you need the time to get this right. We are listening," wrote Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president. "As we make these changes, we believe we need to give employers more time to comply with the new rules."
The administration was right to delay implementation of the mandate, Snowe says, but should be clearer about the path forward.
"It was important, at least from the standpoint of the administration to defer, acknowledging the realities instead of just plunging ahead, irrespective and dismissive of the consequences," Snowe says. "But it is more reflective of the underlying and fundamental problems that exist with the legislation, which ultimately undermines the full intent and purpose of trying to get people insured with affordable plans. Again, it's going to create uncertainty and it's still looming large."
Conservatives, who have repeatedly sought to derail the health care law they see as a massive and costly government intrusion and a regulatory nightmare for businesses, used the administration's decision to renew their call for overall repeal.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the lead sponsor of a repeal measure sure to go nowhere in the Democratically-controlled Senate, said the White House moved to avoid political fallout during a re-election year.
"The president knows Obamacare is, in the words of one if its chief architects, a train wreck," he said in a release following the announcement. "Now, apparently fearing being held accountable to voters at the ballot box, the president wants to delay implementation until after the 2014 elections. We should accept the president's invitation, and indeed defund Obamacare altogether, to restore economic growth and avoid the impending train wreck."
Snowe says Republicans are right to enumerate deficiencies in the law, but only if they are intent on correcting the wrongs.
"The reality is, it's law and therefore you have to mitigate and address the issues; I supported repeal, but that's not the reality," Snowe says. "Really, both sides need to get it together and figure it out. And maybe there are some things that frankly the administration would agree to that would be important to Republicans, so this is the time to take that action."
But she's not holding her breath for a kumbaya moment anytime soon.
"I guess I'm enough of a political realist to know that's not going to happen, regrettably," Snowe says. "But it's much to the consternation of the American people."