Implementing President Obama's health-care reform law was never going to be an easy. Its complexity makes it one of the biggest domestic policy challenges ever undertaken by the federal government.
And Republican opposition to the law at every turn has only made implementation harder. The GOP will stop at nothing in its attempts to derail the law.
But yesterday's surprise announcement delaying the large employer mandate until after the 2014 midterm elections was a political earthquake inside the Beltway.
Said Speaker John Boehner in a statement: "This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."
Making matters worse, the Treasury Department made the statement while President Obama was on Air Force One returning from Africa. Putting out an announcement just before the July 4th holiday only made it seem as if the administration was trying to bury it.
The perception is terrible for Democrats. GOP lawmakers suggested the implementation is going badly and threatened to make it a big issue in the midterm elections once again. As First Read wisely notes, "When it comes to politics, perception matters — a lot. And the perception could give political foes the idea they have a chance at stopping the law, which in turn could lead to less cooperation."
Rick Klein points out that "this is a blow in every conceivable way to the Obama administration — an admission that its signature legislative accomplishment isn't ready for prime time, just as the law's critics have been arguing, and arguing."
But the reality is much different than the political perception. The main parts of ObamaCare — the individual mandate and the health insurance exchanges for purchasing plans — are not delayed. And there remains almost no chance Republicans can repeal the law as long as Obama is in the White House.
So while the day's headlines are bad for the White House, ObamaCare remains the law of the land and will likely remain in place for a generation or longer.