Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, was back on Capitol Hill today to testify about the Affordable Care Act and the troubled healthcare.gov website. According to NBC News, was “grilled” by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee.
Except, apparently, for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. If the rest of the hearing was a grilling, Senator Brown must have been in charge of the backyard softball game. NPR reports that Senator Brown asked Sebelius to talk about the law’s legacy: “What are people going to say about the Affordable Care Act in five years and in 48 years?”
Huh? The Secretary has presided over the most disastrous rollout of a federal program in living memory, the country is currently grappling with the fallout from that failure and other issues posed by the Act, and Senator Brown is channeling his inner Oprah and asking Secretary Sebelius to speculate about a legacy?
In fairness, these kinds of politicized questions aren’t unusual. As the NPR story also reports, a Republican Senator used his entire allotment of time to make a critical speech, without asking Secretary Sebelius a single question. What’s the point of having Cabinet officers testify if they aren’t asked questions?
These partisan antics are the kinds of things that drive me nuts about Congress. There are dozens of entirely legitimate questions to ask Secretary Sebelius about how this landmark statute is working, why the website wasn’t better designed, and other topics of great interest to Americans who are trying to understand why the rollout of “Obamacare” could be so mishandled and what they must do to comply with a complicated statute. Can’t members of Congress lay aside their party affiliations and their desires to make speeches, even once in a while, actually ask questions that should be answered, and get answers that will help them to decide how we can move forward?