Driving the Week: SCOTUS, Spending and Contempt

This week will be pivotal in shaping our nation’s policies, politics and the Presidential campaigns.

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld what is widely viewed as the central element of the Arizona immigration law, the section which requires police offers to check the immigration status of those stopped, detained or arrested in the state. Although this section was the most controversial, it was the only part that the Supreme Court upheld. All other provisions were struck down, including provisions allowing police to arrest immigrants without a warrant if “probable cause” exists, making it a state crime for illegal immigrants not to carry registration papers or government identification, and forbidding illegal immigrants to apply, solicit or perform work in the state.

The Supreme Court this morning also struck down a challenge to Citizens United in Montana, asserting that corporations, unions and other special interests have the same First Amendment rights as citizens.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court will also decide the fate of Obamacare. Speculation has been flying for months, with four possible outcomes expected:

  1. Upholding the entire law;
  2. Striking just the individual mandate;
  3. Striking the individual mandate and several other provisions, including the requirement of insurers to accept all customers and forcing insurers to charge everyone the same, regardless of medical history; or
  4. Striking the entire law.

But the Supreme Court is not the only campaign shaper this week: federal student loan rates are set to double this Sunday, from 3.4% to 6.8%. But according to the Washington Post Editorial Board (and us, previously), spending $6 billion now is worse than the rates doubling on Sunday:

“The student-loan rate is hardly an established standard; only students who took out loans this year got it. It resulted from a Democratic campaign gimmick — promising to halve student loan rates — and it’s expiring because, after making the promise, Democrats didn’t really want to pay for it. ‘Doubling’ the rate would not affect existing student loans, only new ones. There are better ways to encourage college access, such as shoring up the Pell Grant program. The subsidized loan program would still give students a good deal, with terms far more generous than the market could offer borrowers with little or no credit history. Extending today’s low loan rate for a year — yes, lawmakers want to extend it for just a single year — is not worth the $6 billion it would cost.” (emphasis added)

Beyond student loans, the transportation bill is set to expire at the end of this week as well. Politico’s Morning Transportation hints to a potential splitting of the highway bill, by putting provisions such as the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash into a separate bill. Yet another short-term extension is still possible.

The House of Representatives is also set to hold a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder for refusing to turn over documents related to “Fast and Furious.” President Obama asserted “executive privilege” over the documents in order to protect what appears to be a wide-ranging cover up. It also buys the administration more time because they now have to go over every single page of the withheld documents and explain why executive privilege applies. They could have done this 7 months ago, when the documents were asked for (if privilege applies now, it applied then), but now they have bought themselves additional months, likely pushing the issue past the election.

The House will also begin consideration of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5972). It is a large spending bill that deserves scrutiny.

In other transportation votes, the House has postponed a vote on the Motion to Instruct Conferees that would protect states’ 10th Amendment rights by ensuring the federal government cannot use federal money to coerce them to enact distracted driving laws (which many are already doing).

Meanwhile, the Senate will vote on extending federal flood insurance. More on the federal government’s flood insurance program, here.

With so many pivotal issues this week, there will be plenty of fodder for campaigns, pundits and politicians. Heritage Action will help you sort out what it all means for the American people and their day to day lives.

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