House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa sent a stern warning to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday night: Obstructing a congressional investigation is a criminal offense.
At issue are the “attempts by the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit contractors working on HealthCare.gov from cooperating with congressional investigators,” and Issa informed Sebelius in a letter that this obstruction is criminal.
“The Department’s hostility toward questions from Congress and the media about the implementation of Obamacare is well known,” Issa wrote.
Issa called out an HHS instruction to a HealthCare.gov contractor, Creative Computing Solutions, Inc., to not comply with the Oversight Committee’s request for documents, saying that the department would answer Congress on its behalf.
“The Department’s most recent effort to stonewall, however, has morphed from mere obstinacy into criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation,” he said.
“In fact, it strains credulity to such an extent that it creates the appearance that the Department is using the threat of litigation to deter private companies from cooperating with Congress.
“Obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa wrote. “It is widely understood that private citizens and companies cannot contract away their duty to comply with a congressional request for documents.”
“Furthermore, the Department’s instruction to CCSI and other contractors not to respond to congressional document requests runs afoul of a federal statute that prohibits interfering with an employees’ right to furnish information to Congress.
Issa ordered Sebelius to direct all [HHS] employees “to cease obstructing the Committee’s investigation of the implementation of the ACA through HealhCare.gov.”
“It is my expectation that you and your staff will have no further communication with the contractors in question regarding the Committee’s requests for documents and information,” Issa concluded. “I remind you that an October 30, 2013, subpoena issued to you—which remains in effect—would capture the information that I requested from contractors.”