The “Fast and Furious” investigation knocked House Republicans off their jobs message last week, and a series of detours ensures the party will have trouble re- centering its election-year economic message for at least one more week.
Following on the heels of Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) panel finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over the investigation into the gun-walking operation, the House could find itself engulfed in debate and a floor vote on the contempt resolution, guaranteeing a televised political spectacle.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. No matter the decision, the long-awaited answer from the court is sure to consume Members’ time.
Mix those two explosive issues with a frenetic workload as both chambers try to reach deals on transportation reauthorization legislation and student loan interest rates, and it’s not difficult to see why Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has expressed concern that Republicans’ message on the economy could get lost and that the contempt vote might not be the wisest political move.
Other court decisions might prove to be a big deal on the messaging front as well and could distract from the GOP’s effort to keep Obama’s handling of the economy at the forefront.
The constitutionality of Arizona’s immigration law will be decided and the equally contentious Citizens United campaign finance ruling gets a renewed focus in a Montana-based case that seeks to allow tougher state campaign finance laws. And the House will attempt to consider two appropriations bills as well.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor conceded that the week’s schedule is packed. And while some agenda items are not jobs-related, he said the long-term message for Republicans is.
“It’s not that we can’t take care of the business here. There are things that need to be addressed,” the Virginia Republican said. “The primary focus and what we are trying to do is get Democrats to work with us in creating a better environment for jobs.”
Health care can reasonably be tied back to the economy, and Republicans have sent memos and briefed Members, urging them to focus on the economics of the issue.
Boehner sent a memo to House Republicans on Thursday asking them not to “spike the ball” if the law, or part of it, is struck down.
“We will not celebrate at a time when millions of our fellow Americans remain out of work, the national debt has exceeded the size of our nation’s economy, health costs continue to rise and small businesses are struggling to hire,” the note said. “Obamacare has contributed to all of these problems.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.