Congressional Republicans Threaten to Subpoena Kathleen Sebelius

Issa, Alexander blast Sebelius for not complying with document requests on Obamacare launch

Kathleen Sebelius / AP
• October 25, 2013 11:15 am


Congressional Republicans on Friday threatened to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services over the disastrous rollout of a federal health care website unless Secretary Kathleen Sebelius turns over previously requested documents.

House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Senate Health Committee ranking member Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) blasted Sebelius in a Friday letter for refusing to comply with prior document requests.

"While you [Sebelius] have refused to provide information to Congress, you have been a frequent guest on numerous news and television comedy programs subsequent to" the troubled launch of, the letter said.

Issa and Alexander requested documents relating to the construction and launch of the website, which was intended to allow insurance customers to shop for coverage through the federal Obamacare exchange, in an Oct. 10 letter. Sebelius informed them on Thursday that she would not be complying with the request.

The Republicans resubmitted their request in a Friday letter. "If you do not comply," they warned, Issa’s committee "will be forced to consider the use of compulsory process."

Sebelius is slated to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. She is expected to be grilled on the litany of problems that have beset the rollout.

Thirty-three House Republicans signed a letter to the president on Thursday urging him to fire Sebelius over problems with the Obamacare rollout.

Federal contractors who worked on the website blamed HHS and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which took the lead in building and implementing the site, for its extensive problems in Congressional testimony on Thursday.

HHS "serves the important role of systems integrator or ‘quarterback' on this project and is the ultimate responsible party for the end-to-end performance," said Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, one of the lead contractors on the project, in testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Issa and Alexander accused Sebelius of making misleading statements in public and to Congressional overseers about the preparedness of HHS’s digital healthcare effort.

"It is clear that you and other high-ranking HHS officials either provided false testimony to Congress or did not know how badly the development of the was proceeding," they wrote. "Either scenario, if accurate, is inexcusable and demands accountability from your department."

The letter ran through a litany of problems with the website, which has drawn criticism from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

"Your failure to provide Congress information that would shed additional light on these problems is a troubling indication that you are refusing to hold people accountable for this costly and failed enterprise," Issa and Alexander said.