What about the tan tax?

June 27, 2012

The Supreme Court is poised to rule on the health-care law — a development that has vastly increased Washington’s punditry-verbiage output. Talking heads have been breathlessly pondering: Will the court strike down the individual mandate? The rules on insurers?

But one topic that has been neglected is the infamous tanning-bed tax included in the massive health-care overhaul. The Internal Revenue Service is proceeding apace with that part of the law, clarifying this week how the rules apply to tanning salons filing as “single member LLCs.” It’s hot stuff.

To help pay for the reforms, as you may recall, Congress tacked on a 10 percent tax for tanning-bed users. Jokes about the perennially bronzed House Majority Leader John Boehner abounded, of course. The provision was expected to pull in $2.7 billion over 10 years — nothing to sneeze at.

Will the tanning tax survive? Well, Boehner proved to be a hero to indoor tanners everywhere when he vowed Wednesday that “if the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it.”

Victory for the bronzers!

Exit, stage right

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s blistering dissent in the Arizona immigration decision Monday — and his singling out, in the ruling and from the bench, President Obama’s suspension of deportation of people who came here as kids — has created something of a fuss.

Liberals have denounced it as a purely political attack. They’ll probably start calling the justice “Sen. Scalia (R-Scotus).”

That’s okay. Scalia is more than able to handle such criticism.

But it seems he’s also taking incoming from highly regarded conservative U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner , who questioned whether Scalia had veered into the political arena. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Justice Scalia’s opinion were quoted in campaign ads,” Posner wrote Wednesday in Slate.

“Justice Scalia says that it ‘boggles the mind’ to think that Arizona’’ could be forbidden to enforce parts of federal immigration law “ ‘that the president declines to enforce,’ ” Posner wrote, adding that Scalia also said the federal government was refusing to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

“These are fighting words,” Posner wrote, while “the nation is in the midst of a hard-fought presidential campaign” and “illegal immigration is a campaign issue.”

“The program that appalls Justice Scalia was announced almost two months after the oral argument in the Arizona case,” Posner notes. “It seems rather a belated development to figure in an opinion in that case.”

After the ruling was announced, Scalia, in a “bench statement” that pretty much tracks his dissent, said that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention “would have rushed to the exits from Independence Hall” if the Constitution gave the feds exclusive control over immigration “that would be enforced only to the extent the president deems appropriate.”

Posner might think such words are “political,” but Scalia is undeniably right.

Of course, many of the state delegates would have run from the hall if the original Constitution had included a provision abolishing slavery.

Cohibas and comity

Does the answer to all the partisan nastiness on Capitol Hill come wrapped in tobacco leaves and smell like the inside of a fine humidor?

Advocates of legislation exempting fancy, hand-rolled cigars from the kind of regulation the Food and Drug Administration applies to cigarettes think so. A leisurely cigar-smoking session brings people — even lawmakers of different stripes — together, the thinking goes.

Case in point: The list of co-sponsors for a bill carving out premium cigars from the FDA’s clutches includes liberals and tea party types alike.

Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, says cigar-as-political-salve isn’t much of a stretch. Cigar lounges and the like “have become the barbershops of older days,” where “everyone is equal” regardless of party affiliation, he contends.

But the industry’s best argument, he says, is that the bill is all about jobs (yes, we’ve heard this one before). Regulation would kill some of the nearly 86,000 jobs the fine-cigar industry supports, the association is telling lawmakers.

The FDA’s been sending up smoke signals indicating that it plans to issue proposed rules on hand-rolled stogies as part of its efforts to curb tobacco-related diseases and deaths. A ruling could come at any time.

And no matter how much lawmakers might enjoy savoring a fine cigar, counting on Congress to act quickly and in a bipartisan way to avert new rules might just be a pipe dream.

The Purple Lips?

Most folks who haven’t served in the armed forces are aware of the more famous medals — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Medal of Honor.

The Air Force put out a solicitation for bids last week for some 34,000 medals and ribbons covering 74 types of awards. Naturally, most are for service in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts.

Others are for service on U.N. or NATO missions, such as in Kosovo, and 4,000 medals are for good conduct. And there are ribbons for recruiters (10) and basic-training instructors (50).

Even civilians can receive awards. For example, the Air Force has ordered three medals for service in Antarctica.

“The first recipients of this award were members of the U.S Navy operation High Jump under the late Admiral R.E. Byrd in 1946 and 1947,” according to an Air Force fact sheet.

“Deserving civilians, including scientists and polar experts, can also be awarded this medal.”

If you’re a civilian looking for a medal, go for that one — the work may be arduous, even nasty, but at least no one is shooting at you.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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