Any delay to Obamacare—whether it’s pushing back the individual mandate or stripping funding for a year—would only open the door to devastating consequences for the law. Once Obama shows he is willing to negotiate on his signature piece of legislation—and, by implication, signaling that the law may have deep, fundamental problems—there will be no end of trying to tear it down, with opponents perhaps garnering another 41 House votes to defund it in the process.

“It’s not worth discussing, because it’s not going to happen,” Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told National Journal. “We’re more than happy to work with Republicans to fix some of the glitches. But they’re not interested in making adjustments; they’re simply trying to wipe it out completely.”

This is no secret. For Republicans to even imply that a delay would be good for the White House (“I actually believe the president wants to delay Obamacare, because it’s such a mess,” said conservative Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho. “It’s just not working for them.”) is specious. The GOP wants to kill this law, and tranquilizing it is just an attempt to put it down in hopes that it never wakes up. Secure a postponement to next year, and maybe if the Senate flips, the dynamic changes. Delay it long enough, and eventually a Republican president might be able to help finish it off for good.

Instead, the opening that Republicans see is largely rhetorical. They say the Democratic message isn’t matching up with the cold, hard reality of implementation. “The delays the administration has been forced to implement in the health care law have given us a golden opportunity to talk about fairness: ‘If big business gets relief from the president’s health care law, families and small businesses should, too,’ ” Speaker John Boehner has been fond of saying.