"It is clear Democrats don't think they can survive politically if Obamacare is allowed to fully go into effect," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee oversees the tax penalties enforcing the mandate.
The law passed in 2010 required employers with more than 50 employees working 30 or more hours a week to offer them suitable health coverage or pay a fine. The coverage requirement was originally supposed to have taken effect this year.
But last summer the the administration announced a one-year delay, the first sign of potential problems with the rollout of the health care law.
Since then it's been a gigantic crisis management drill. The new online signup system at HealthCare.gov was crippled by technical problems for the better part of two months last fall. Separately, millions of people who were already buying health insurance individually had those policies cancelled because the plans did not meet the law's requirements.
With the online system mostly fixed, supporters of the law are hoping to turn around public opinion.
When it comes to the impact on jobs, "the big concerns that have been raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act amount to very little because large employers already think it is in their best interest to provide coverage to their workers," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group.
In other provisions announced Monday, the administration said:
— Companies will not face fines if they offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015, although they will have to ramp that up to 95 percent by 2016. The law defines "full time" as people working an average of 30 hours a week per month. That concession is expected to help firms who have a lot of workers averaging right around 30 hours.
— Volunteer firefighters and others who give of their time will not be considered employees for under the law. Some volunteer fire departments worried they might have to shut down if forced to provide health insurance.
— Adjunct faculty members at colleges will be deemed to have worked 2 hours and 15 minutes for each hour of classroom time they are assigned to teach. Officials said that means someone teaching 15 hours a week in the classroom would be considered "full time" and eligible for coverage, but someone teaching 12 hours may be considered part-time.
— A one-year delay in a requirement that employers offer coverage to dependents of full-time workers. Companies that are working to meet the goal will have until 2016 to comply.