US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Alexander Asks Secretary Sebelius For Details on Fundraising and Coordinating with Private Entities to Implement Health Care Law

Sends letter to Secretary Sebelius asking about the extent of the relationship and coordination between HHS and Enroll America

Monday, May 13, 2013Liz Wolgemuth 202-228-1263

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“If the Department of Health and Human Services closely coordinates with Enroll America and other entities, then the analogy with Iran Contra is strong…Congress had said no, and the administration did it anyway. And that's precisely, it seems to me, what's happening here.”  –Lamar Alexander

Washington, D.C., May 13 – From the floor of the United States Senate today (VIDEO HERE), U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he would independently investigate and also call on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius’s fundraising and coordinating with private entities to implement the health care law in violation of constitutional limits on her spending authority, saying “the analogy with Iran-Contra is strong.” 

Alexander said: “If the Department of Health and Human Services closely coordinates with Enroll America and other entities, then the analogy with Iran-Contra is strong. It's hard for me to see the difference. There's a difference in where Oliver North got his money… with Iran-Contra, some of it came from the hostages for arms sale. But the question is not as much where the money comes from—although in this case the secretary may be raising it from people she regulates, which could also be illegal—the question is where the money is going. And in the case of Iran-Contra, the money was going to a private entity supporting a rebel army in Nicaragua in contravention of the Boland amendment passed by Congress. In other words, Congress had said no, and the administration did it anyway. And that's precisely, it seems to me, what's happening here.

He continued: “Congress has said ‘No, we're not going to appropriate any more money or as much as you want, to implement the health care law,’ and the secretary appears to be raising money from people she regulates to give it to private entities with whom she coordinates to do what congress has refused to do.”

“The problem with that first is the constitution of the United States which gives the power of the purse to the United States Congress--Article One. Number two, there is a federal law that says that you can't do through private entities what Congress has refused to do. That's called the anti-deficiency law. And three, there are laws about raising money from people you regulate for whatever purpose.”

He today sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius asking for details on the extent of the relationship and coordination between HHS and the organization they are raising money for, called Enroll America, which is run by a former administration official.  He also asked for information related to Secretary Sebelius’s fundraising, including who at HHS was involved in asking for money, who they contacted, what requests were made specifically.

Alexander will also send a letter with Senate colleagues to the Government Accountability Office asking them to examine the issue.

Alexander said: “We'll be asking the GAO to examine the amount of coordination between the Department of Health and Human Services and Enroll America, and whether Secretary Sebelius is trying to do through a private entity activities that Congress has refused to allow the department to do. Such private fundraising as these articles describe circumvents the constitutional requirement that only Congress may appropriate funds. If the secretary and others in her department are closely coordinating with the activities of Enroll America, which is headed by the former White House Aide, then those actions may be in violation of the Antideficiency Act.”

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