In what is turning into a major election-year battle between Congress and the Obama administration, House Republicans and seventeen Democrats Thursday voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress (WashPost) for failing to provide documents they requested to investigate the gun-tracking operation in Mexico known as Operation Fast and Furious.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) sting operation involved a “gunwalking” tactic (AP) in which the ATF allowed more than 2,000 guns to be purchased by those who were believe to be working for Mexican drug cartel arms traffickers, ultimately leading U.S. officials to the heart of the Mexican cartels. But only about 700 weapons were successfully recovered, while many others have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico (LAT).
President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege to block the subpoena of more administration documents beyond the 7,600 records provided so far (NYT), though analysts say the president’s involvement could hurt his reelection prospects (Fox News).
The U.S. House is expected to consider legislation Friday that would keep interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1 (AP), which both President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney favor.
A bipartisan deal was struck in the U.S. Senate deal Tuesday (TheHill), folding the federal student loan provisions into the transportation bill.
Lawmakers acknowledge that increasing student loan rates on millions of college graduates who may or may not have found jobs could harm and already fragile economic recovery but disagree on how to cover the costs of keeping the rates low.
While healthcare exploded as a hot topic in light of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2012 law, Gallup says U.S. voters are far more concerned with the economy, jobs, the deficit, and problems in government this election year. Of those surveyed in June, six percent said healthcare is the biggest problem facing the country, according to Gallup.
“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is constitutional, the healthcare issue may become more of a front-and-center focus of news coverage and the presidential election campaigns, and healthcare may thus rise again in Americans’ priorities as the most important problem facing the country,” Gallup says.
— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor