One of the House’s top Democrats is sick of hearing Republicans complain about Obamacare problems and wants them to start helping to find some solutions.
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland skewered Republicans at a House Oversight Committee hearing –which featured the testimony of White House tech officials – arguing they have no interest in fixing the glitch-filled HealthCare.gov website.
“Nobody in this room, nobody in this country believes that Republicans want to fix this website,” the top Dem on the committee said on Wednesday, noting that over the past three years the House has voted more than 40 times to repeal parts or all of the law. “Now they are attempting to use the Congressional oversight process to scare Americans away from the website by once again making unsupported assertions.”
Cummings remarks were in reference to Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, who raised concerns about the security of the website. Issa insisted “hackers may soon find your Social Security number or your sensitive information” because of what he views as subpar testing that took place before the Oct. 1 launch. The California lawmaker said it was a “monumental mistake” to to push the website live when it wasn’t ready.
The hearing also comes as Issa subpoenaed the testimony of Todd Park, the White House’s chief technology officer. The demand drew a swift rebuke among Dems who characterized the subpoena as a witch hunt. The White House had initially said Park was busy trying to fix the site but was willing to appear in front of the committee after the Nov. 30 deadline to have the new online insurance market up and running.
Cummings told Issa during the hearing, “I think you owe Mr. Park an apology, not a subpoena.”
Issa has accused Park for making inaccurate statements about the amount of traffic HealthCare.gov could handle. He told Fox News that Park has engaged in a “pattern of interference and false statements.”
During his testimony, Park called the rocky rollout of the website “highly frustrating” and “unacceptable” but added that they were “making progress at a glowing rate.” Park said the site can handle approximately 20,000 to 25,000 users at once, which is about half of what it’s supposed to be.
Meanwhile Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (which is overseeing the implementation of Obama’s healthcare law) told the committee that the website is functioning “much better” than it did before and that now up to 17,000 users can sign up every hour.
The hearing became particularly heated at one point between Issa and Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee. Like Cummings, Cooper accused Republicans of making unsubstantiated accusations.
“American people do not want to see a kangaroo court here,” he said.
Issa shot back: “Kangaroo court is quite an accusation… This is not a partisan hearing. I will not be accused to a partisan hearing!” to which Cooper said “This is a hearing on a broken website by a broken committee.”
The testimony comes as an initial report shows that only about 50,000 people signed up for private coverage or Medicaid since HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1. The White House expected at least 500,000 individuals to sign up during the first month.
The Washington Post reported earlier in the day that the Obama Administration is unlikely to meet its Nov. 30 deadline of completely fixing the site, which took years to build and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The White House has rejected that assessment. “The challenges we are addressing today are a snapshot of November 12, not November 30,” Health and Human Services Secretary Joanne Peters said in a statement to NBC News. “We are working 24/7 to make improvements so that by the end of the month so that the site is working smoothly for the vast majority of users.”