WASHINGTON – The showdown between Congress and the White House over the foibles of the healthcare reform law – popularly known as Obamacare – is starting to grow testier.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, has issued a subpoena to compel Todd Park, President Obama’s chief technology officer, to appear before his panel on Wednesday to explain the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov, the website that plays an essential role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Issa said he issued a subpoena after Park balked at testifying before the committee, explaining that he is heavily involved in correcting the problems that have plagued healthcare.gov since its launch. Donna Pignatelli informed Issa that Park “is currently occupied full time on the critically important work of improving the website for the millions of Americans seeking affordable health insurance options.” Park expressed a willingness to meet with the committee informally at the end of November and then appear publicly before the panel in early December.
Issa responded by issuing the subpoena, asserting that Park’s statement is crucial to the committee’s understanding of what went wrong and what the Obama administration is doing to fix it.
“Millions of Americans have lost their health insurance and are rapidly approaching a point where they must begin to prepare for the possibility of having no health insurance,” Issa said in the subpoena letter demanding Park’s appearance. “They deserve your sworn testimony before their elected representatives about what went wrong.”
The subpoena comes on the heels of Issa’s claim that Park lied about the capabilities of healthcare.gov. Appearing on Fox News last week, the chairman said Park was “engaging in a pattern of interference and false statements.”
Park said on Oct. 6 – five days after the launch — that officials planned for healthcare.gov to draw approximately 60,000 simultaneous users. Issa said documents show the administration was actually targeting only 10,000 concurrent users and wound up handling about 1,100 before response time got too high.
“Park knew the facts — had to know the facts,” Issa said.
“This was a failure to launch that they knew about on Sept. 30 and went ahead anyway,” he told Fox News.
Issa also said Park made “a false statement” when he attributed the site’s problems to high consumer volume.
“Clearly the president had an opportunity with his lead contractors and his technology people to take the time out that Congress was asking them to take, to delay the launch at least until security and speed concerns and so on could be addressed — they didn’t do it,” he said.
Issa’s subpoena was not well received. Pignatelli dispatched a second letter asserting that compelling Park to testify at this time “is more likely to hurt rather than help the goal of fixing the website as soon as possible.”
“You explained that the committee feels it has a duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch, but conspicuously absent from your letter was any statement or justification that would explain the legislative need to compel Mr. Park to appear next week as opposed to a few weeks from now,” Pignatelli wrote.
Meanwhile, three Park supporters have started a website, Let Todd Work, urging Congress to permit Park to continue his work on healthcare.com uninterrupted.
“On the evening of November 8th, Todd Park was subpoenaed by Congressman Darrell Issa to testify in front of Congress about whether or not Healthcare.gov was prepared on launch day,” the site maintains. “Now, instead of continuing to fix Healthcare.gov (a mess he did not make), Mr. Park has to spend his hours preparing for his testimony.”
Park, the site said, “is a fantastic public servant, who cares about making government more effective and accountable, just like Mr. Issa. We hope that they can work together on solving the policies that enabled healthcare.gov to fail in the first place.”