Tags: issa | hhs | sebelius | letter

Issa Claims HHS Officials Trying to Duck Obamacare Hearings

Image: Issa Claims HHS Officials Trying to Duck Obamacare Hearings

By Drew MacKenzie   |   Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 09:55 AM

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is accusing Health and Human Services officials of trying to avoid an appearance before his panel by arranging conflicting schedules.

According to The Hill, the Californian Republican complained in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that officials who were supposed to brief the committee Thursday at 9:30 a.m. asked at the last moment to be rescheduled for 8:15. The briefing, which was canceled, was to focus on documents related to security testing on the HealthCare.gov website.

"I am concerned that the pattern of incompetence and broken commitments Americans have seen in the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov appears to extend to your department’s legislative outreach efforts," Issa wrote Wednesday.

HHS spokesman Joanne Peters told The Hill the agency was simply attempting to meet with Issa in a more timely manner.

"In various letters to Chairman Issa, we noted that given the concerns that have been raised about the sensitivity of these documents, we would work to schedule a briefing as soon as possible," she said. "We regret that the Chairman's schedule did not allow for a briefing [Thursday], but look forward to continuing to work with his office to set up this briefing."

Issa also claimed in his letter to Sebelius that her department had rejected his request that HHS Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman appear at Thursday’s hearing.

According to the Hill, the department sent a letter to Issa saying that Baitman would make himself available for testimony, but pointed out that the chairman was being "unreasonable and inappropriate" because he had given Baitman only 36 hours notice to appear.

The letter also noted that Baitman "would have to spend additional time away from his important work he needs to do . . . for the department during a very crucial time."

The Hill described Issa's letter as part of an ongoing feud between the Oversight chairman and HHS that escalated when the chairman recently claimed that Sebelius had provided "false and misleading" testimony to Congress and threatened another investigation.

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