HHS: Of course, Secretary Sebelius will testify… you know, sometime; Update: Next week, for sure?
posted at 3:21 pm on October 21, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
Republicans and ObamaCare critics have been excoriating Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for her
refusal to appear before “scheduling conflict” with this week’s Congressional hearing on the failures glitches of their beloved Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s implementation, especially given that she seems to have all the time in the world to attend a lovely-looking gala the evening before at this especially busy juncture. Her run around Congress was a pointed topic of conversation on Sunday:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested any calls for Sebelius to resign would be premature. “I’m not a big fan of media calls for people to resign, but I think in this case, actions like the one you just outlined will make it harder and harder for her to do her job,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Her refusal to testify and be transparent about it, I think, is undermining her credibility. And there may come a point now, perhaps we’re not there today, where she will have to resign.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said during a later appearance on the show that Sebelius will essentially have no choice but to testify eventually.
“I think the secretary’s view that she doesn’t have to testify, doesn’t have to answer questions, that she’s too busy for that, is unsustainable,” he said. “She won’t be able to sustain it.”
And Speaker Boehner was equally direct in a statement this morning:
The refusal of Secretary Sebelius to appear at this week’s hearing shows that this administration is still not prepared to be straight with the American people. Every day new questions about the president’s health care law arise, but candid explanations are nowhere to be found. This decision continues a troubling pattern of this administration seeking to avoid accountability and stonewall the public. What is more important to Secretary Sebelius than providing answers to the American people? I hope President Obama has a greater appreciation for the role of oversight and orders his Secretary to fully cooperate with all congressional inquiries.
The storm of criticism has evidently prompted Health and Human Services to issue a ‘clarification’ about Sebelius’s intentions for cooperating with Congress in the future. Just because her schedule does not permit her to testify at this particular hearing does not mean that she won’t potentially appear at other [less timely] hearings at some later date — they just need to work on finding “a mutually agreeable date in the near future,” you see.
Aides to Kathleen Sebelius and House Republicans agree that the Health and Human Services secretary should testify before Congress about problems with the health care website.
They just can’t agree on a date.
“We fully intend for the Secretary and other HHS officials to testify before Congress as early as next week, as they have numerous times in the past, but nothing is confirmed at this time,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
No doubt she will end up testifying eventually; HHS and the wider Obama administration won’t be able to totally stay the calls for accountability or at least an explanation for long, and Chuck Todd, for one, thinks that Sebelius might have a reason to be nervous. Hmmm:
I think one, if all else fails, they’re going to have to find a fall person, somebody, and say, “You know what? This didn’t work. Fire somebody. Maybe high profile.” Kathleen Sebelius is very nervous about her standing with the president. Who knows what happens? But that would be the ultimate sort of, “If all else fails, bring in somebody to quote unquote, ‘Fix this.'”
Update: Under pressure. Via Energy and Commerce:
In an effort to understand the problems, who is responsible for them, and when or if the administration recognized the challenges that lay ahead, leaders sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services, CGI, and QSSI. The committee has invited CGI, QSSI, Serco, and Equifax to testify on Thursday. CGI, Serco, and Equifax have confirmed. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to testify before the full committee next Wednesday, October 30, 2013, and answer all of the committee’s questions.