Using regulatory powers and executive edicts to circumvent Congress is standard operating procedure for the Obama administration. Just as egregious is the way the White House mocks congressional oversight authority. How else to interpret the flouting of a congressional summons by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. She said “scheduling conflicts” prevented her from testifying Oct. 24 before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding the abject failure of Healthcare.gov, the Obamacare web site. Sebelius will instead be in Boston attending a gala foundation dinner, according to CNN.
Michigan Republican Fred Upton, chairman of the energy and commerce panel, is not amused by Sebelius' evasion: "It's well past time for the administration to be straight and transparent with the American people. Top administration officials repeatedly testified everything was on track, but the broad technological failures reveal that was not the case. Either the administration was not ready for launch, or it was not up to the job. The president and top officials were quick to boast the number of visitors to Healthcare.gov, but they have since gone silent, refusing to disclose even basic enrollment figures. The rollout has been a complete mess, beyond the worst case scenario, and yet those administration officials responsible have indicated they will not be available to testify next week. This is wholly unacceptable … we expect her to have time for Congress.”
Sebelius' snub is in keeping with the impudent attitude of the White House toward the legislative branch. She is only the latest top Obama appointee to delay or refuse to appear before a congressional committee. It took months, for example, for Attorney General Eric Holder merely to respond to repeated summons from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to answer questions about the Fast and Furious scandal.
Similarly, top-level administration appointees frequently refuse provide documents that Congress has an unquestionable right to see on request. Earlier this year, Michal Conger and Kelly Cohen of the Washington Examiner's Watchdog investigative reporting team surveyed House committees on the timeliness and thoroughness of administration responses to congressional document requests. Conger and Cohen “looked at more than 100 major document requests to the White House and executive branch departments and agencies since the start of the 112th Congress after House Republicans regained a majority in the 2010 election. Nearly half of the requests were denied outright, answered with irrelevant or inadequate materials, or seriously delayed.”
Across the board, Hill aides said the White House and the Office of Management and Budget, which set the tone for the rest of the executive branch in dealing with Congress, were consistently “the most difficult to deal with, according to committee aides. The Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, was forced to issue subpoenas when White House officials refused to answer eight of the panel's 11 requests, beginning in 2011.” Clearly, Sebelius' actions are par for Obama's course.