Via MFP, didn’t House Republicans demand a delay of the mandate at one point in late September as their price for averting a shutdown? Yes, says Rush, but that was then. Obama refused to defund the law before it started wreaking havoc so now his reward is getting to watch this car crash play out. In fact, that was a core argument among establishment Republicans against “defund.” Why stop a program that the Democrats own if you’re convinced it’ll be a wreck? Allow it to launch and then, when it wrecks, their credibility will wreck with it. Let it burn.

I’ve written about this problem before, as have other righty bloggers, but it’s newly urgent now that Obama’s website czar is hinting that the site won’t be ready by the end of the month. Delay is coming, and like I said at the end of that last link, there are two ways Obama can play it. He can do what he did with the employer mandate and unilaterally declare that the individual mandate won’t be enforced, at least temporarily. That’s probably illegal but that never stopped him before. Or he can call on both parties in Congress to pass something to delay the mandate for awhile, at least until the website is up and running. Marco Rubio introduced a bill two weeks ago that would do exactly that — yet here’s Rush insisting that it would be the height of stupidity to ease the pain caused by ObamaCare by granting Obama a delay. Simple dilemma for the GOP, then: If they agree to a delay, they’re helping to reduce near-term suffering caused by the law. Like Rush says, that’ll make it easier later for Democrats to claim that it’s working okay. If they don’t agree to a delay, they’re contradicting a position they held as recently as six weeks ago and giving Obama an opening to claim that Republicans want people to suffer. They’re so vindictive towards him, he’ll say, that they’d rather see people forced to pay a penalty next year for not having insurance even though the website makes it next to impossible to obtain insurance. Remember, none other than Ted Cruz rejected the “let it burn” strategy in an interview a few weeks ago because, he said, it’d be terrible to stand by while Americans are suffering just to score some political points. That was his rationale for pursuing “defund” — he tried to stop the law before it could do harm. How does he feel about mitigating the harm now that the law’s taken effect?

What the GOP’s going to end up doing, I assume, is granting a delay if Obama asks for one but only if he gives them other concessions. What those might be, I don’t know; they could ask for a sunset clause on the entire law by a certain date if things aren’t working, as Ace suggests, although who knows if Obama would dare risk that. Whatever happens, it’s crucial that they make sure people understand that delaying the mandate has bad consequences. It’s unfortunately necessary because you can’t penalize people for not buying a product that the government’s website won’t let them buy, but it’s only going to increase the risk of adverse selection to the insurance industry. Instead of healthy people signing up en masse and tossing their money at insurers every month starting in April, those insurers will have to wait until May — or June, or July, or who knows when. And meanwhile, untold numbers of sick people will be signing up, month after month. Job one for the GOP is making that clear so that the public understands that Obama’s colossal screw-up is going to do damage even after mitigating action like delay is taken. Meanwhile, if O refuses to grant them any concessions, they should simply vote present on delay, in fine Obama tradition, instead. Let Democrats continue to own this. No “yes” votes from Republicans, even if the politics of this force them to relent on the mandate for now.