Thursday, June 28, 2012

Busy Beltway Thursday- Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Provision; House Finds Holder in Contempt

In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court upheld President Obama's signature healthcare law on Thursday morning by a 5-4 margin. Chief Justice Roberts had ruled that the individual mandate in Obamacare was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. However, he ruled that the mandate could be considered a tax despite Obama and the Democrat's insistence that the mandate wasn't a tax when they were trying to sell the public on it back in 2009.

Via Scotusblog and Legal Insurrection:
“In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.”
In even simpler terms, it's a tax for existing, basically. Using this ruling as precedent, there really would be nothing from stopping Congress from imposing a recurring annual 'Not Buying a Chevy Volt' surtax on any new vehicle purchased in the USA- including a Chevy Volt because only Volts with a certain VIN number are exempt.

While the decison may seem to vindicate Obama and the Democrats who supported it at first, the estimated $1.75 trillion pricetag means that the Democrats have passed the largest tax increase in American history durin a timeframe when the national unemployment rate was never less than 8.1%. The [rather tortured- NANESB!] definition of the mandate as a tax means that it can be struck down or eliminated in Congress with a simple majority instead of a supermajority. This also makes one wonder if the numerous Obamacare waivers the Administration passed out could be considered 'tax cuts for the rich'? Also, will any of the 800,000 or so illegal immigrants that he just gave totally-not-amnesty-amnesty to this month recieve waivers?

Reaction from both sides was immediate, with Obama taking the opportunity to hawk campaign t-shirts and reassure Americans how awesome his new tax was while reading from a prepared statement earlier today. At the same time, Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney's campaign raised nearly $2 million dollars from online donations within hours of the Supreme Court's decision.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives went ahead with a scheduled vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over the ATF Fast & Furious gunwalking scandal on Thursday afternoon.
The vote follows a roughly 16-month investigation by the chamber’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the failed gun-running sting known as Fast and Furious -- run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department led by Holder.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., filed two subpoenas over that period requesting additional information. But he has more recently focused on information related to a February 2011 letter to Congress that falsely claimed the ATF was unaware the operation involved the underground sale of the assault weapons.

“Today, a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for his continued refusal to produce relevant documents,” Issa said after the vote. “This was not the outcome I had sought and it could have been avoided had Attorney General Holder actually produced the subpoenaed documents he said he could provide.”
In December 2010, US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed by heavily armed smugglers in a shootout near the US/Mexico border in Arizona- two of the weapons recovered at the scene were traced back to Fast & Furious. Attorney General Holder originally testified that no gunwalking took place under Fast & Furious before later admitting that ATF Field agents were ordered to allow more than 2000 firearms to be smuggled into Mexico by straw purchasers, losing track of all of them. In addition to Brian Terry's death, numerous guns from Fast and Furious have been turning up at hundreds of crime scenes in Mexico. Many on the House Government Oversight Panel requested more documents from Holder regarding gunwalking during often-contentious hearings, but in a move many saw as designed to shield Holder from further oversight scrutiny, President Obama invoked executive privelege on certain DOJ documents and correspondence.

One school of thought out there is that the sole purpose of Fast & Furious was to create more anti-gun sentiment and pass additional gun control laws after saturating an already volatile Mexico with weapons that could be traced back to the USA. This was dismissed by some in the media as being the stuff off kooky black helicopter conspiracy tinfoil hat brigades. Yet nearly every Democrat on that spoke on the House floor Thursday took the opportunity to call for additional punitive gun control laws here in the USA, despite the fact that the DOJ orchestrated arms trafficking already violated several laws on the books.

After a lengthy and incoherent diatribe by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a walkout by the Congressional Black Caucus, the measure to find Holder in contempt passed on the House floor by a 255-67 margin, with at least 17 Democrats breaking from their party to vote on their contempt vote.

Last week's vote in the House oversight committee to bring the contempt vote to the floor of the house passed along

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