Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation
House Democrats stormed out of a Congressional vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress today.
Led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who originally planned a walk-out yesterday, most Democrats exited the chamber instead of voting to hold the Attorney General in contempt. Both House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called for the walkout.
Holder has been the target of Republican fury over ‘Fast and Furious,’ a misguided gun tracking effort initiated by the Bush administration and continued under Pres. Barack Obama in which thousands of guns went missing.
Democrats have criticized the vote for being about politics, not action, since the Republicans’ focus has been on Holder, and not on the gun trading scheme. They feel that Congress should be concentrating on the economy, jobs, and seeking the truth of what happened to the missing guns and a man killed by one.
Holder is the first-ever Attorney General to be charged with contempt by the full House.
Responding to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Congressional Republicans have scheduled a vote in the House to repeal the law and Mitt Romney pledged to undo the measure if he’s elected president in November. But unless the GOP wins a super majority in the Senate — a scenario no one thinks is plausible — it can do little more than weaken Obamacare’s regulations and defund some of its provisions. Here is why:
1) Romney has no authority to issue waivers. Romney has promised to expand a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows states to opt out of certain sections of the law to permit states to ignore it entirely. But the executive branch and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) likely don’t have the authority to grant such broad waivers. According to the law, HHS (together with the IRS) have waiver authority, but only if the states meet very specific requirements. Neither have blanket waiver authority, which would have to come from Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — the author of the waiver provision — has challenged Romney’s claims, saying, “Anybody who tries to move outside the standards of the bill — which is the coverage and costs and the like — well I’ll certainly fight that. But I think lots of other people will too.”
2) Congress can’t repeal the full law through reconciliation. Without the necessary 60 votes in the Senate for full repeal, Republicans are pledging to use a budget reconciliation bill to undo the ACA. But this process would only apply to the budget-related elements of the law and would thus leave many portions — including the mandate — intact. As health care expert Robert Laszewski put it, “Romney could end up creating a chaotic environment driven by enormous uncertainty over just which parts of the new health care law would be implemented–for consumers, health care providers, and insurers.”
3) Republicans have nothing to replace it with. David Frum explains that since the expansion of coverage provisions go into effect in 2014, Romney would have just one year to both repeal and replace the law. Republicans haven’t even coalesced around a single plan — and many in the party believe that the federal government should leave health care alone and want to leave the entire reform process to the states. Thus, “if replacement does not happen in the first 100 days, it won’t happen at all—that is, it won’t happen as a single measure, but rather will take the form of dozens of small incremental changes adopted episodically over the next 20 years.”
4) Americans support Obamacare’s provisions. While Americans may not like “Obamacare” — and the political process of passing it — they do support its major provisions and are likely to resist any effort by Republicans to take away their benefits. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that while 56 percent of Americans oppose the law as a whole, 61 percent of respondents favored allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, 72 percent wish to maintain the requirement that companies with more than 50 workers provide health insurance for their employees, and 82 percent of respondents favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. As more benefits roll out in 2014, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to argue for their repeal.
Budget experts suggest that the mandate would be vulnerable to a reconciliation package, since it brings in additional revenue and changes the government’s subsidy calculations.
A leading Republican congressman compared today’s Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who had been in Republican House leadership until 2011 and is currently running for Indiana governor, made the claim during a closed-door meeting among Republican congressmen today. Politico has more:
In a closed door House GOP meeting Thursday, Indiana congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence likened the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Democratic health care law to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to several sources present.
Pence apologized afterward, calling the remarks “thoughtless.”
This isn’t the first time the Indiana Republican has been embroiled in controversy for outrageous comparisons. In 2009, he thanked a town hall constituent who said that President Obama “sounds a lot like Hitler.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Businesses should be allowed to deny health insurance to cancer patients, according to a Republican senator, because “our nation was based on the foundation of freedom and limited government.”
Discussing health care outside the Supreme Court today, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told ThinkProgress that there “shouldn’t” be a law requiring businesses to cover employees who have cancer because that would “create an obligation” for others. “When you create a right for somebody,” Johnson said, “you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right.”
KEYES: I know Richard Murdock had said even though businesses should give people, for instance, with cancer, health coverage, they shouldn’t be legally required by the federal government.
JOHNSON: They shouldn’t. Listen, our rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when we start expanding beyond that realm, when you create a right for somebody, you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right. And that maybe doesn’t seem all that great, but it’s just true. Our nation was based on the foundation of freedom and limited government.
Under Obamacare, health insurance companies cannot deny people health insurance because of a pre-existing condition like cancer. Johnson remains strongly opposed to the law.
Unfortunately, he is not the first person to suggest that businesses should be permitted to deny insurance to cancer patients. Last week, Indiana Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock similarly argued that employers should be allowed to deny coverage to cancer patients “if they want to keep their health care costs down.”
The Supreme Court ruled today that the Affordable Care Act, the comprehensive health care reform package signed by President Obama in 2010, is constitutional. The Court upheld the law’s most controversial provision, the individual mandate, ruling that it is constitutional under the government’s authority to levy and collect taxes.
Republicans have falsely claimed the mandate was the “biggest tax increase ever in American history,” so of course, conservatives immediately jumped on the idea that the individual mandate was a massive tax hike on the middle class, reviving an argument Republicans have made since the law passed more than two years ago:
INDIANA SEN. DAN COATS (R) said “Right now we have something with a big tax and the American people who rejected that in 2010 are going to have a chance to break the tie in 2012.”
LOUISIANA GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R) said “Ironically, the Supreme Court has decided to be far more honest about Obamacare than Obama was. They rightly have called it a tax. Today’s decision is a blow to our freedoms.”
The mandate can indeed be characterized as a tax, as the Court found. But it is not a massive tax hike on the middle class, much less the biggest tax hike in American history. The tax imposed by the individual mandate amounts to either $695 or 2.5 percent of household income for those who don’t have insurance and are not exempt based on income levels. By comparison, the payroll tax cut extension Republicans repeatedly blocked earlier this year would have added 3.1 percentage points to the tax and cost the average family $1,500 a year.
The mandate, meanwhile, would hit a small amount of Americans — somewhere between 2 and 5 percent — according to a study from the Urban Institute. The number could be even lower depending on the law’s success: in Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, less than 1 percent of the state’s residents paid the penalty in 2009.
The majority of the Affordable Care Act’s other taxes, such as a payroll tax increase and a tax on high-cost health plans, are aimed at upper-income Americans. In exchange, millions of jobs will be created as new people enter the health care system and millions of people will gain access to affordable, quality insurance that they otherwise would not have. And, as we detailed earlier today, the Court’s decision to uphold the entirety of the law will have significant benefits for the nation’s economy.
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) characterized the mandate as a “middle class tax increase,” claiming that millions of Americans are going to have “an IRS problem.” Watch it:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A leading Republican congressmen in the fight to repeal Obamacare said today’s Supreme Court ruling is “illegitimate” and has called for one of the Supreme Court Justices to be impeached.
ThinkProgress spoke with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) outside the Court immediately following the decision today affirming the constitutionality of Obamacare. Gohmert, apoplectic over the ruling, directed his anger towards Justice Elena Kagan, who he claims likely “violated federal law” by voting on the Obamacare decision after serving as Solicitor General when the law was passed. “She needs to be removed from the Supreme Court,” he cried, calling for her impeachment. As such, Gohmert said today’s decision upholding Obamacare is “illegitimate.”
GOHMERT: We still have the issue of Justice Kagan. Either she was totally derelict and negligent in her duties as Solicitor General and had absolutely nothing to do with the most important bill to the president, her boss, or she did have something to do with it, she has violated federal law, and as such she needs to be removed from the Supreme Court. [...] I think it’s important to look at Justice Kagan for potential impeachment. [...]
KEYES: Considering she was the deciding vote in the case, does that leave the ruling illegitimate if she broke federal law?
GOHMERT: Yes it would. It would mean this decision would be illegitimate if she lied in order to get onto the Court.
Republicans Respond To Supreme Court Upholding Obamacare By Setting A Date For Its Repeal |
Republicans are responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act by setting a date for its repeal. “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare is a crushing blow to patients throughout the country,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement. “During the week of July 9th, the House will once again repeal ObamaCare, clearing the way for patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase choice.” Millions of Americans have already benefited from the law, and many more are expected to gain coverage in 2014 and beyond.
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The Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare, paving the way for full implementation of the law in the states and ensuring that millions of uninsured Americans haves access to affordable coverage. The court upheld the provision as a tax, but found that it does violate the Commerce Clause.
The Medicaid expansion is limited, but not invalidated, the court found. In short, it decided that if a state does not expand the Medicaid program, as required by the law, the federal government cannot withhold Medicaid funds.
In short, “the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.”
Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Sonya Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan in the 5 to 4 decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy — who was considered a swing vote on in the case — sided with the conservatives.
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From the opinion: “Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.”
On the Medicaid issue, a majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions. Here is the quote: “Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”
From the dissent, Kennedy writes, “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”