Iran-Contra-like health care scandal means trouble for Sebelius

Could there be a fourth scandal brewing in the Obama administration? Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., thinks so and is asking Congress to investigate.

Kathleen Sebelius HHS
Photo credit: Washington Post

Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius has been soliciting contributions from private companies in order to fund Enroll America, a nonprofit formed to implement Obamacare, and Alexander says the action is illegal. Congress has turned down HHS requests for additional funds to assist with implementation, according to the Daily Caller.

“Such private fundraising circumvents the constitutional requirement that only Congress may appropriate funds,” Alexander said. “If the secretary or others in her department are closely coordinating the activities of Enroll America, which is headed by a former White House aide, then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

Others may agree, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah

“To solicit funds from health-care executives to help pay for the implementation of the President’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is absurd,” Hatch said in a statement to the Washington Post. “I will be seeking more information from the Administration about these actions to help better understand whether there are conflicts of interest and if it violated federal law.”

But HHS spokesman Jason Young said there’s a loophole in the legislation and that they are not doing anything illegal, the Post reports.

Sebelius is working “with a full range of stakeholders who share in the mission of getting Americans the help they need and deserve,” Young said. “Part of our mission is to help uninsured Americans take advantage of new, quality affordable insurance options that are coming thanks to the health law.”

Young said that Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can.

Alexander compares Sebelius’ actions to the Iran-Contra scandal, where funds were raised and spent to support Nicaraguan rebels when Congress refused to appropriate funds. Alexander noted that an investigative report had determined “Congress’ exclusive control over the expenditure of funds cannot legally be evaded through the use of gifts or donations to the executive branch.”

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told the Washington Post she was troubled by Sebelius’ activities because the secretary seemed to be “using the power of government to compel giving or insinuate that giving is going to be looked at favorably by the government.”

Alexander says Sebelius should “cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress.”


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