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The deeply troubled Obamacare rollout has renewed the debate over just how responsive — or unresponsive — the administration has been to congressional oversight, with Republicans complaining of a litany of stonewalling prior to the Oct. 1 opening of the health care exchanges.
“We cooperate with all legitimate congressional oversight,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday in response to a line of inquiry about the beleaguered HealthCare.gov website from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has engaged with Congress numerous times and will continue to engage with Congress numerous times on these — these and other issues,” Carney explained later in the daily press briefing. “I’m just saying that I think everybody here who wasn’t born yesterday has seen questionable congressional oversight in the past. I’m not saying in regard to this issue, I’m just saying in the past.”
While the White House has long chafed at Issa’s investigations, Republicans in both chambers have complained that their requests have frequently either gone unanswered or have taken too much time to get a response.
For instance, the minority staff of the Senate Finance Committee says it’s taken HHS an average of four months to respond to formal inquiries from the panel’s Republicans.
And they have yet to receive any answers to questions raised in a June letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spearheaded by ranking member Orrin G. Hatch in which eight colleagues joined the Utah Republican.
The letter asked 15 questions about the health care law’s Navigator program, which provides federal funds to local organizations to help educate people about Obamacare’s benefits and to help get uninsured individuals signed up for coverage on the new exchanges. After waiting months for a response, the group sent a follow-up last week.
“These are critical questions which need to be answered,” the senators wrote on Oct. 18. “In fact, the number of additional concerns about the potential for massive fraud and abuse which have arisen since our initial letter only reinforce the need for Congress to have more detailed information.”
The House Budget Committee reports similar trouble.
In a Tuesday letter to Sebelius, Chairman Paul D. Ryan renewed an August request for an organizational chart detailing the agency’s involvement in implementing the health care law.