House Republicans Skip Obamacare Briefing They Furiously Demanded
The Huffington Post | By Sabrina Siddiqui
For all their fury, most of the House Republicans who had demanded their own closed-door briefing from the administration on President Barack Obama's struggling health care rollout were no-shows on Wednesday.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told reporters that "about 20 members" attended the House GOP briefing, at which senior Health and Human Services Department official Mike Hash laid out some of the issues facing the Healthcare.gov website.
The meeting was scheduled after House Republicans cried foul when they weren't included in last week's closed-door session with Democrats. The White House said Democrats had requested the briefing, but Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), deemed the snub "all the more offensive after [HHS] Secretary Sebelius declined to testify" at a House committee hearing last Thursday on Obamacare.
Sebelius was unable to attend last week's hearing because she was traveling in Phoenix at the time, although several of the top contractors for the Healthcare.gov website did appear. The secretary testified at a subsequent hearing this Wednesday morning, during which she apologized for the problems that have plagued the website and enrollment process and accepted the blame.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said House Republicans' need to receive their own briefing had become less compelling once Sebelius was set to testify and field questions from members of Congress.
"At the time the briefing was scheduled, Secretary Sebelius was refusing to testify openly at a Congressional committee," Steel told The Huffington Post in an email. "Given her testimony today, and the CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] administrator’s yesterday, the situation had changed."
It's unclear if the private briefing would have offered Republicans information beyond that Sebelius provided the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it would have been an opportunity for all GOP members, rather than just those on the committee, to pose questions to administration officials. Officials also tend to be more forthcoming with details behind closed doors.
The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seized on the poorly attended GOP briefing. "Fortunately for House Republicans, extreme bouts of self-righteous indignation are covered by Obamacare," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.
This story has been updated with comment from Rep. Pelosi's office.