House Votes To Find Holder In Contempt

For the first time in the history the United States House of Representatives has voted to hold a sitting Attorney General in contempt of congress, finding Eric Holder “guilty” of withholding documents pertinent to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gun-running fiasco.

Holder now joins the more than 80% of Americans who hold Congress in contempt.

Seventeen Democrats joined 238 Republicans to vote in favor of House Resolution 711, for a final vote tally of 255-to-67 in favor of finding the Attorney General in contempt – even though President Barack Obama invoked his “executive privilege” to shield Holder and the documents. It was the first time Obama has used executive privilege. Almost every U.S. president has used executive privilege to deny Congress access to information – George Washington was the first in 1796 when he denied the House access to documents relating to the treaty John Jay negotiated with Great Britain. Ronald Reagan used the privilege three times. Bill Clinton used it a whopping 14 times. George W. Bush invoked the rule six times.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Lake Elsinore CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, spearheaded the effort to find Holder in contempt. Issa contends that Holder not only withheld subpoenaed documents, but also lied to Congress about his involvement in the gun-running scheme that ended with a border patrol agent being murdered with a weapon the government supplied to Mexican drug lords. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is also suspected of lying to Congress in a letter claiming they had no involvement in the “Fast and Furious” operation.

The contempt vote is unprecedented, and seen by many as a political tactic to attempt to overshadow administration victories in the courts on immigration and health care issues – in particular the recent Supreme Court decisions on Arizona’s immigration law and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Some have suggested there may be racist overtones, as Holder is black and has been a particular target of Obama’s opposition throughout his first term.

Whatever the motivation, the contempt vote is unlikely to have any actual consequences for Holder, and merely sets the stage for a showdown in the courts to attempt to enforce the House subpoenas for documents. In 1974 the Supreme Court denied a claim of Executive Privilege by then-President Richard Nixon, although in that decision it upheld the general validity of the Executive Privilege power of the presidency.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R – CA) led the effort to find Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress.

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And Now For The Bad News

Once the jubilation over the Supreme Court decision to uphold “Obamacare” dies down it will be time to fully enact the Affordable Care Act – including the provisions to pay for it.

Part of the money will come from cuts to the current health care costs incurred by the government, but the bulk of the $1 trillion that will be spent over the next ten years will come from taxes. Americans will pay an additional 9/10 of one percent on income over $200k to help finance the system. Those with investment income may be subject to a new 3.8% tax on some of their capital gains and dividends.

Businesses that offer what are considered “excellent” or “Cadillac” health care plans will also pay more: plans that cost over $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage will be subject to new excise taxes. Many business analysts claim businesses will try to avoid this tax by reducing their plan offerings or even cutting health care plans altogether. The theory is this will translate to higher wages or higher profits, and thus higher tax revenues – so either way the government is covered.

There is also a new tax deductible cap on “flexible spending plans”, and new regulations that limit what such plans can pay for, plus a 20% penalty for non-qualified expenses.

The limit for deductions for medical expenses will rise from 7.5% of income to 10% – although that provision will not kick-in until 2016 for those over 65 years-of-age.

Those who enjoy indoor tanning salons have been paying a 10% excise tax since 2010, supposedly because of the health care costs associated with irradiating your skin with UV light.

And finally there is the controversial “individual mandate”, that requires those who can afford health insurance but who choose not to get it to pay a penalty. This will be phased-in in a graduated plan between the years 2014 to 2016, starting at $285 per family or 1% of income (whichever is greater), and growing to $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income (whichever is greater). Initially Obama resisted this provision but bowed to pressure from insurers who claim without it people will take advantage of the law’s lack of “preexisting condition” exclusions by waiting to buy insurance after they get sick. The insurers thus need the mandate to turn a profit and stay in business. Under the original proposed law these people would have been served via a “public option” offered directly through the government, but this was gutted from the law by Republicans who considered it to be “socialism” (unlike taking money from the insurance lobby, which is “capitalism”).