House Speaker John Boehner ripped a decision to extend the March 31 Obamacare enrollment deadline for some people who have not finished signing up.
"What the hell is this, a joke?" he said on Wednesday of the Obama administration's latest change in carrying out the politically charged health law.
The deadline for individuals to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is Monday. Those Americans without health coverage of any kind after the deadline will have to pay a penalty, according to the law.
But late Tuesday the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Obamacare, announced that it will give more time to people who try to apply through the federal marketplace by Monday but encounter difficulty.
Administration officials said the move, similar to the one in December for the large number of people who were trying to meet a separate January 1 enrollment deadline, will accommodate people who face special circumstances or complex cases and need extra time to complete their enrollment.
At his weekly news conference, Boehner pounced on the latest tweak to the law.
"Last night brought us yet another delay of Obamacare, another deadline made meaningless. As if he (President Barack Obama) hasn't put enough loopholes into the law already, the administration now resorting to an honor system to enforce it," Boehner said.
The administration argues that heavy demand prompted the change.
"The law is the law. Consumers need to know the deadline is March 31. But just like on Election Day, if you are in line when we close, you get to enroll. We're experiencing near-record volume and the site, and we're not going to turn people away who tried and couldn't complete their enrollment. This is about helping people who want to get health insurance," said HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters.
But Boehner said this week's move is "part of a long term pattern of this administration manipulating the laws for its own convenience."
Pointing out that Democrats passed Obamacare without any Republican support, the speaker said they need to stand by their own law.
"The law says that enrollment stops at the end of March. That's what the law says. I've got to live by the law, you've got to live by the law, the American people have got to live by the law and guess what? The President needs to live by the law as well."
The Republican-led House chamber has passed dozens of bills aimed at repealing or altering Obama's signature health law over the past three years. Republicans have also made Obamacare a campaign theme against Democrats in this year's midterm elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired back at Boehner and House Republicans, saying millions will get health coverage who otherwise wouldn't have it.
"And the joke, I say to my dear friend John Boehner, is him -- having more than 60 votes over there to terminate Obamacare," Reid said.
"I just think that we're at a point now where it really does appear to be extremely disingenuous and they oppose anything that's good about Obamacare. Anything good about, anything good this administration tries to do," he said.