GOP Senators Concerned Over Obamacare Sports League Outreach

McConnell, Cornyn warn against tainting leagues’ brands

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell / AP
• June 28, 2013 4:40 pm


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) expressed alarm over the Obama administration’s reported efforts to get professional sports organizations to promote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in letters to the commissioners of six leagues on Friday.

Administration officials have reportedly been reaching out to the MLB, the NFL and the NBA, seeking their support in encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health care plans.

A representative for McConnell said it was possible other sports organizations were also contacted by the administration.

"Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of the health care [law], it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion," the Senate’s top two Republicans wrote.

The letters were sent to the commissioners of the MLB, NFL, NBA, NASCAR, NHL, and the PGA.

McConnell and Cornyn also said the administration has used threats in the past to pressure the private sector into supporting policy initiatives.

"We have long been concerned by the Obama administration’s record of using threat of policy retaliation to solicit support for its policies or to silence its critics," wrote the senators. "Should the administration or its allies suggest that there will be any potential consequence for your decision not to participate in their outreach efforts, we urge you to resist any such pressure and to contact us immediately so that we may conduct appropriate oversight."

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was reportedly one of the administration officials involved in the outreach efforts. Sebelius is currently under scrutiny for soliciting support for the Affordable Care Act from private entities, including organizations that may fall under her regulatory authority.

Republicans on three House committees are looking into whether Sebelius’ actions violated ethics rules or broke the law. House Republicans have also called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters last month requesting more information from 15 companies that may have been approached by Sebelius.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee and the chief deputy whip, said on Thursday that he had not seen any indication that an investigation would be taken up by the HHS inspector general, and said other recent scandals plaguing the Obama administration diverted attention from the Sebelius controversy.