Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Republicans seek more testimony from White House [ W4llppr ]

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have asked President Barack Obama’s current and former top healthcare advisers to testify next week on the rocky rollout of Obamacare, but the White House has so far not agreed to the idea.

Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, and Jim Jordan, who chairs one of its subcommittees, asked the White House to allow Jeanne Lambrew, a senior White House official responsible for healthcare policy, to appear at a November 20 hearing.

They also invited Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama’s former top health adviser, who has left the White House.

Kathryn Ruemmler, Obama’s counsel, told the lawmakers in a letter dated Tuesday that the administration had already provided an “extraordinary” amount of information about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

She noted recent testimony and briefings on Capitol Hill from senior officials involved in Obamacare, including two White House information technology officials – Todd Park, the chief technology officer, and Steven VanRoekel, the chief information officer, who testified on Wednesday.

The Oversight Committee subpoenaed Park to testify after the White House said initially he would be too busy fixing the website to appear before the committee until December.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Jordan said Lambrew and DeParle should appear because “they are the political people in charge” and determined the website should launch on October 1 despite not being ready to go live.

Ruemmler did not say no – but she did not say yes, either.

“I would encourage you to continue to direct your inquiries to the agencies responsible for implementing the ACA,” Ruemmler wrote in the letter.

“Requesting the testimony of senior White House officials on the broad and amorphous range of issues referenced in your letter is an extraordinary step that is not tied to any legitimate oversight interest of the committee,” Ruemmler said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney)