POLITICS
05/07/2014 09:58 am ET Updated May 07, 2014

GOP Goes All In On Benghazi, Tax Cuts, IRS Scandal As Obamacare Fades

WASHINGTON -- With the passionate hatred of Obamacare fading even in Republican circles, the GOP will embrace a trifecta of issues on the House floor Wednesday that look like better horses to ride to the November elections: Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service scandal, and deficit-hiking tax cuts.

All three are on the agenda for floor consideration, starting with a vote to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress because she twice asserted her Fifth Amendment rights to not testify to Congress. No court has ever upheld a contempt vote by Congress against a person who pleaded their constitutional right against self-incrimination. Several such votes reached the Supreme Court when they were last taken, back in the McCarthy era.

Yet tea party Republicans are especially enflamed over the IRS' scrutiny of tax-exempt political social welfare groups, since more conservative groups were targeted than liberal ones. Many Republicans still think the White House had to be involved, although no evidence has surfaced to show that.

The House is also pushing ahead with the creation of a select committee to investigate the aftermath of the killings of four Americans at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. There have already been dozens of hearings and formal briefings, and House Armed Services Committee concluded in its detailed investigation that the military did all it could to intervene in the tragedy.

But the release of an email written by a White House aide three days after the attack recently reenergized the Benghazi effort, since it showed the White House was worried about spinning the public reaction to the attacks.

Last, but not least, the House is teeing up the first of six major tax cuts that the House Ways and Means Committee approved last week. None of the proposed cuts would be paid for with revenue hikes or spending cuts elsewhere, and they would add $310 billion to the deficit in a decade.

The particular tax cut on the floor Wednesday is a break for research and development that has been popular on both sides of the aisle in the past. But it would add $156 billion to the deficit over 10 years, and critics say much of it is just a giveaway to corporations, with evidence suggesting they claim the credit for work they have to do anyway. Democrats opposed the cut in committee last week and the White House threatened to veto it Tuesday, suggesting it was hypocritical to support tax cuts that would add to the deficit when the GOP won't pass things that are paid for, such as longterm unemployment insurance.

The shift from Obamacare to other issues is not lost on Democrats, at least as far as the Benghazi investigation goes.

A memo released Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee slams the creation of a select committee to investigate Benghazi as a get-out-the-vote ploy hatched by Republicans.

"We get to waste more taxpayer dollars and time with a new 'select committee' -– chaired by a Tea Party Republican who has turned conspiracy theories into an art form, and who said in 2012 'We’ll have committee hearings until the Lord comes back, if that’s what it takes!'" wrote DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee, referring to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

"This is a crass partisan GOTV program masquerading as congressional hearings -– at the expense of the taxpayer, our national dignity, and (even worse) the memory of those lost," he wrote.

Republicans have argued that the four slain Americans' memories cannot be properly honored until the nation knows how the White House conducted its spin afterwards, which they characterize as a cover-up.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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