The top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee blistered the Republican chairman Wednesday for, in his words, turning the panel into "a tool for opposition research" while failing to pass any legislation to boost the economy.
Rep. Sander M. Levin released the unusually scathing and personal letter to his fellow Michigander, Chairman Dave Camp, accusing him of using the committee as a bully pulpit for sabotaging the Obama administration.
"I am deeply troubled by the partisan turn this Committee has taken in recent months, having delayed — and in some cases completely abandoned — action on many issues of vital importance to American families and our economy while pressing ahead with a political agenda to undermine President Obama's second term," read the opening lines of Levin's memo.
He went on to point out that the committee has, in six months, only held two full committee hearings on issues other than the Affordable Care Act and reports that the IRS disproportionately targeted nonprofits with ties to the tea party.
The panel has only marked up two bills, Levin complained.
The final straw, Levin suggested, was Camp's move to subpoena health care exchange enrollment numbers from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, despite Tavenner's promise to willingly share those numbers with Congress next week.
Levin called it "illustrative of the partisan and unproductive turn of the Committee's agenda."
"We serve on a Committee with a storied history of grappling with and addressing the premier issues of the day," Levin said.
Camp's actions, he said, "are beneath the Ways and Means Committee."
Dear Chairman Camp:
I am deeply troubled by the partisan turn this Committee has taken in recent months, having delayed – and in some cases completely abandoned – action on many issues of vital importance to American families and our economy while pressing ahead with a political agenda to undermine President Obama’s second term. The highly unprecedented use of the Committee’s subpoena power to compel information you have been told will be provided next week, and the subpoena and letter you have sent to CMS Administrator Tavenner and IRS Acting Commissioner Werfel within the last 24 hours are illustrative of the partisan and unproductive turn of the Committee’s agenda.
We serve on a Committee with a storied history of grappling with and addressing the premier issues of the day. I have been privileged to work on a bipartisan basis on many of those issues, including on trade and welfare reform. Our Committee has never served as a tool for opposition research. But the selective release of IRS information during the tax-exempt organization investigation, the use of subpoena power in the manner you have undertaken this week, and the request made of the IRS today are clearly efforts to simply gather data to continue your assault on the Affordable Care Act. They are beneath the Ways and Means Committee.
One does not need to be reminded that we are just one month into the launch of the new health insurance marketplaces. Your efforts to date illustrate that you have no interest in working to make sure quality, affordable health insurance is available to all Americans, but rather to dismantle the law and prevent people from accessing insurance as is their right under the law.
Within the last six months, you have held but two full committee hearings on issues other than the Affordable Care Act and the IRS’ screening of tax-exempt organizations. The Committee has marked up two pieces of legislation this year, the last being in April on a bill to prepare for a default by prioritizing payments of the Treasury Department.
Missing, however, has been any action to spur job growth to assist American families as they continue to recover from the Great Recession. And while Democrats on the Committee have urged a bipartisan effort to craft comprehensive tax reform, Republicans have chosen a closed-door approach centered on lowering the top tax rate by more than a third, costing $3.8 trillion.
Republicans spent the first half of October shutting down the government and threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, starving the economy of any sense of certainty for a full 16 days. Even after Republicans relented, allowing the government to reopen, you and others in the Majority have maintained a complete focus on undermining the Affordable Care Act. That obsession has come at the detriment of so many other important issues that should be the focus of this historic committee.