California Rep. Darrell Issa on Wednesday accused federal health officials of criminal obstruction of his probe of the botched rollout of the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, The Hill reported.
Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the Department of Health and Human Services allegedly told a private contractor not to cooperate with congressional requests for information.
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HHS also is said to have notified Creative Computing Solutions Inc. that it agreed in its contract not to share certain things with outside parties and that the department would deal with any requests for documents from Congress.
Issa described these moves as a "threat of litigation to deter private companies from cooperating" with lawmakers' requests for information.
"Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime," Issa wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "I request that you direct all employees in your department to cease obstructing the committee's investigation of the implementation of the [Affordable Care Act]."
Issa pointed out a Dec. 6 letter that HHS sent to the company in which "the department claimed that the company is contractually precluded from producing documents to Congress. The letter further stated that the department will respond to requests from Congress on the company’s behalf."
Issa mentioned that other HealthCare.gov vendors received similar letters.
Issa stated that the HHS contract prevents vendors from sharing documents with other companies, not Congress, which has a constitutional duty to oversee the actions of the executive branch, PJ Media reported.
"The department's attempt to threaten CCSI for the purpose of deterring the company from providing documents to Congress places the officials responsible for drafting and sending the letter on the wrong side of federal statutes that prohibit obstruction of a congressional investigation," Issa wrote.
The move comes after Issa subpoenaed Sebelius
in late October for documents related to the rollout.
HHS responded to Issa's letter by releasing a statement saying it takes the matter "very seriously" and that "the privacy and security of consumers' personal information" is a top priority of theirs, The Hill reported.
"We have received the letter and will respond directly," to Issa, the statement said.
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