House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is eager to hold a hearing on the Affordable Care Act’s website, getting answers directly from Todd Park, the White House’s chief technology officer. No problem, Park said last week, agreeing to testify the first week in December – after he’s done with the next round of tech fixes.
For reasons no one has been able to explain, Issa has said that’s not good enough. Late Friday, the far-right committee chairman subpoenaed Park, insisting that he stop working on fixing the website and start talking to lawmakers about why the website isn’t working. If that seems nonsensical on its face, welcome to the world of House Republican policymaking.
Indeed, this is the first time in quite a while that I can think of a committee reaching out to a potential witness, the witness agreeing to testify, and then having the committee subpoena him anyway, just for the sake of doing so.
An interesting group has rallied to Park’s defense.
A group of technology experts has a message for Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican Oversight Committee chairman who last week disregarded the White House’s insistence that U.S. technology chief Todd Park is too busy to testify about his efforts to repair HealthCare.gov.“Let Todd Work,” the group proclaims on a website launched after Issa issued a subpoena for Park to appear before his panel on Wednesday.
The site has a long way to go before it could fairly be characterized as viral, but it’s a compelling pitch from a credible group of industry tech experts. LetToddWork.org argues that “instead of continuing to fix Healthcare.gov (a mess he did not make), Mr. Park has to spend his hours preparing for his testimony…. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, Todd is one of the good guys. Let him do his job.”
There’s also, of course, a #lettoddwork hashtag making the rounds.
If Issa or any of his allies could offer even the most cursory defense for a subpoena – really, anything at all – the congressman’s actions might appear marginally less ridiculous. But all Issa has said is that he’s incensed by Park’s “unwillingness to appear before the committee” – despite the fact that Park has already volunteered to appear before the committee.
It’s hard not to come away with the impression that Darrell Issa wants to complain about a dysfunctional website and wants to ensure that the website isn’t fixed soon. Why else drag Park away from his work, on purpose, rather than allow him to testify a few weeks later?