House lawmakers lashed out at the Obama administration Thursday, arguing that officials knowingly circumvented Congress to get $7 billion for Obamacare.
The House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing on the funding surrounding Obamacare's cost-sharing reduction payments, which pay down copays and deductibles. The committee, and the Energy & Commerce Committee, issued a report Thursday that said the administration didn't get a congressional appropriation for the payments, as required by law.
"Congress has never provided an appropriation for it. The administration knew this and didn't care," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the committee chairman. "This is stealing from the American people."
Brady also argued that the administration stonewalled the joint committee investigation that began in February 2015.
"Numerous times we called for agencies to turn over critical documents and numerous times we were denied," he said.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., strongly pushed back against that assertion, saying that the administration made 13 officials available to the committee.
"It is nothing more than another attempt to roll back healthcare reform," he said.
The committees issued a 150-page report on Thursday on the appropriations for the cost-sharing reduction payments, which are given to insurers to help lower the cost of co-pays and deductibles, which must not go past a certain amount under the law.
When Obamacare was created in 2010, it included a permanent appropriation for the law's tax credits given to enrollees to pay down the cost of health insurance. The administration sought to use the same authority for a permanent appropriation, and not go through Congress, for the cost-sharing reduction payments.
The committees' report said that in 2012, Treasury Department lawyers knew the permanent appropriation for tax credits couldn't be used to fund the cost-sharing reductions.
Then, in 2013, the administration withdrew its request for annual appropriations for the reduction payments by calling the Senate appropriations committee, the committee said.
In January 2014, the Treasury Department administered the cost-sharing payments through the same method as the tax credits.
"To date, the administration has spent more than $7 billion without the constitutionally required congressional appropriation," according to a release from the House Ways & Means Committee.
The House filed a lawsuit over the cost-sharing reduction funding, arguing the administration had circumvented the chamber to approve the funding. A federal judge sided with the House in May, but stayed her ruling until the result of an appeal from the administration.