The offices of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) engaged in a war of words following a letter Cummings sent Issa criticizing him for misleading the public on the issues surrounding the government’s healthcare.gov website, The Hillreported on Friday.
“It is evident that the testing conducted for Healthcare.gov was inadequate, particularly considering the very high demand experienced in the first days after the website became operational, and I believe Congress can play a key role in conducting responsible oversight to ensure that millions of Americans obtain the health insurance coverage they deserve,” Cummings said in the letter, which was republished by The Daily Kos. “But it is reckless and highly irresponsible to make unsubstantiated public allegations by taking information out of context, especially when the Committee has information in its possession that directly contradicts these unfounded allegations.”
Cummings, who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with committee chair Issa, accused the California Republican of ignoring Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesperson Henry Chao’s prediction that the site would be able to support 58,000 users when it launched in favor of a statement claiming it could only take 1,100 users the day before, a figure based on a separate study.
Following the statement, Issa then criticized both U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and White House spokesperson Jay Carney in an interview with Fox News, saying, “Jay Carney is paid to say things that aren’t so. But in this case, Todd Park and other people who knew the facts, who had to know the facts.”
“This is not the first time you have accused a White House official of being a ‘paid liar,’ a practice that several of your Republican colleagues have condemned,” Cummings’ letter stated. “Given that your staff participated in Mr. Chao’s transcribed interview last week — before you issued your press release and conducted your television interview — it is unclear why you did not disclose the information Mr. Chao provided, but instead chose to accuse Mr. Park and Mr. Carney of misleading the American people.”
A spokesperson for the committee told The Hill in a statement that “Ranking Member Cummings’ attempted distortions are continually shameless,” accusing him of omitting a statement by Chao that the website could handle “somewhere under 10,000″ users. But a separate Democratic spokesperson accused Republicans in turn of “trying to confuse matters” because Chao’s statement related to the website’s registration process, instead of the “online application marketplace,” referred to as the FFM.
Cummings also slammed Issa in his letter for threatening to subpoena Park after Park had already volunteered to testify before the committee in December.
“Based on information obtained by the Committee, it appears that you fundamentally misunderstood or mischaracterized the document you released to the press yesterday and that your accusations against Mr. Park and Mr. Carney are wholly unfounded,” the letter stated.