Hatch calls for investigation of Obamacare funding
Politics • Republicans rankled that HHS leader has suggested industry donations.
Published: May 17, 2013 01:24PM
Updated: May 17, 2013 01:23PM
AP file photo | Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she is pleased to see the strong demand for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Washington • Congressional Republicans claim Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is trying to skirt federal law by fundraising for a nonprofit promoting the Affordable Care Act.

They argue the move is a way to bypass the financial restrictions that Congress has imposed on the agency and they want the Government Accountability Office to investigate, according to a letter sent Thursday signed by five top Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“The secretary’s actions show an apparent disregard for constitutional principles,” they wrote.

Sebelius has said Congress has ignored her requests for more money to promote new health insurance exchanges, which will start providing individuals with insurance this fall, and subsequently has reverted to a plan B. That plan is to ask health industry leaders to donate to Enroll America, a group that will encourage the uninsured to sign up for plans under the law.

House Republicans voted Thursday for at least the 37th time to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health law, a quixotic move with Democrats controlling the Senate and Obama winning a second term.

Conservatives have had more success in hampering the implementation of the law by restricting funding to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Republican leaders, including Hatch, say their ability to control federal budgets is their “single most important curb” on executive branch power and note that there are laws prohibiting federal agencies from augmenting appropriations.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Sebelius in a news conference Thursday, saying that the government has a responsibility to implement the law and that it is “not an unusual thing that the private sector would weigh in.” As such, she said it was appropriate for Sebelius to talk to industry leaders and suggest a donation. “I don’t have a problem with her doing that,” she said.

mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham