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In response to questions from South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy, Sebelius confirmed that she did not request a specific amount from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and H&R Block and said Enroll America was the only organization for which she solicited funds.
She also said that she did not discuss soliciting funds for the group with anyone at the White House. And she pledged to make the legal opinion that she relied upon for making the calls available to the committee, along with the precedents set by former health secretaries for implementing other HHS policies.
Still, Gowdy questioned the implications of her phone calls to the three groups that she did not specifically ask for funds, because they are regulated by HHS. If health care officials say they felt pressured to make contributions to Enroll America, he said, what would her response be?
“Well, I can’t answer what they felt,” she said. “I made fundraising solicitations to two groups who are not regulated. I did not discuss funding with the other three entities. I did discuss Enroll America. And I would tell you that the statutory authority, section 1704 in the Public Health Service Act, would not make that distinction.”
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that the hearing raised additional legal and ethical questions. “The message being sent by the Obama Administration is get behind this private group run by a former White House staffer and we’ll give you more favorable treatment when it comes to regulations,” Hatch said.
The hearing, which was called to examine the president’s fiscal 2014 budget request, also touched on other issues including Head Start and the health care law’s tax on medical devices.