The Obama administration is defending the legality of soliciting donations to promote the healthcare-reform law, but Republicans led by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander aren't buying it. They plan to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius solicited up to $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and $500,000 from H&R Block, among others, in a multimillion fundraising drive for Enroll America, which encourages people to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare.
Alexander claims the contributions are outlawed and compares Sebelius' efforts to the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan presidency, arguing it is illegal to raise money for outside groups connected with the government when lawmakers refuse to appropriate money, as the Republican-controlled House did for Obamacare enrollment efforts.
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According to The Hill
, Alexander plans to ask the Government Accountability Office to examine the propriety of Sebelius' Obamacare-enrollment fundraising campaign in light of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits federal employees from bypassing the congressional appropriations process.
"The fact that Congress won't appropriate more money for Obamacare isn't a defense, because the precise point of the Anti-Deficiency Act is that if Congress won't appropriate the money, the executive branch is not allowed to raise funds twisting arms in the private sector," an Alexander spokesman told The Hill.
But HHS spokesman Jason Young argues that another federal law, the Public Health Service Act, does give Sebelius authority to raise private money "to support by grant or contract (and to encourage others to support) private nonprofit entities working in health information and health promotion, preventive health services, and education in the appropriate use of healthcare."
The fundraising efforts are nothing new, Young said, and HHS sees nothing illegal about it.
"Part of our mission is to help uninsured Americans take advantage of new affordable, high- quality insurance options that are coming, thanks to the health law," he said. "For the last several months, the secretary has been working with a full range of stakeholders who share in the mission of getting Americans the help they need and deserve."
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