Ranking Member DeGette’s Opening Statement at O&I Hearing on ACA Cost Sharing Reduction Program
WASHINGTON - Enclosed below are Ranking Member Diana DeGette's remarks as prepared for delivery at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing titled "The ACA’s Cost Sharing Reduction Program: Ramifications of the Administration’s Decision on the Source of Funding for the CSR Program”:
Today’s hearing marks the 17th oversight hearing this Subcommittee has held since the Affordable Care Act was passed into law in 2010. In this Congress alone, nearly one-fifth of the hearings we have held in this Subcommittee have focused on ACA oversight.
We have sat here for countless hours watching Administration officials be interrogated about their work to implement the law. We have scrutinized every minor hurdle or bump in the road without making any effort to improve health coverage for our constituents.
After six years of votes to repeal and replace the law, dozens of hearings with Administration officials to question their judgment, and countless letters requesting briefings and documents, the House Republicans have nothing to show for it. To say these efforts have been repetitive would be an understatement.
Yet even within this succession of tiresome, unproductive oversight, the investigation into the cost-sharing reduction program is a new low. Instead of recognizing the failure of their oversight strategy, my Republican colleagues have decided to escalate it.
The House Republicans have decided to try fighting the CSR program on two fronts. Before launching this year and a half long congressional investigation, House Republicans voted in July 2014 along party lines to file a lawsuit challenging the President’s implementation of the cost-sharing reduction provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Time and time again, one or both Houses of Congress have had policy disagreements with the Executive Branch. They have traditionally addressed these disagreements through congressional oversight or through the legislative process. Additionally, federal courts have generally declined to get involved in disputes between the legislative and executive branch. That is how our system works.
Instead, in this case, House Republicans decided to file a lawsuit in federal court, asking a judge to decide between conflicting interpretations of the law. For whatever reason, the judge in this case has chosen to rule on the merits of the case. In May of this year, the court ruled for the House Republicans. The Administration has announced its plans to appeal the decision.
But an unprecedented lawsuit was not enough. As this case was moving through the court, this Committee and the Ways and Means Committee sent letters to HHS and the Department of the Treasury in February 2015, launching an investigation into the very same topic.
In the last year and a half, the two committees sent 15 letters and issued six subpoenas for documents on this investigation alone. The committees have jointly conducted over a dozen interviews, hearing from current and former Administration officials from four different agencies. Yesterday, the Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing with Administration officials on the – quote – “Cost Sharing Reduction Investigation and the Executive Branch’s Constitutional Violations.” And today’s hearing brings several experts before us to retread the same ground.
This is not productive oversight. Frankly, it is not even oversight. This is simply a waste of time.
We will likely hear from my Republican colleagues today and some of their witnesses that the pendency of the lawsuit is not a valid basis for refusing to respond to congressional oversight requests, and that the lawsuit does not deprive the Committees of their constitutional oversight authorities and powers. Well, to that I would simply say that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.
With all due respect, what more can we possibly expect to squeeze out of this issue with yet another hearing? We know that there is a difference of opinion regarding whether the cost-sharing reduction program requires a permanent or annual appropriation. And we will hear that again from our witnesses today. We know that there was strong consensus among top government officials that the CSR program was funded through a permanent appropriation.
Do you want Chairman Dingell to come in and tell us what was intended by this provision of the Affordable Care Act? Do you want to hear from individuals who have been able to afford healthcare because of this provision? How far is this going to go?
This investigation in no way improves the quality and delivery of healthcare in this country. It does nothing to reduce healthcare costs. It simply aims to obstruct implementation of the Affordable Care Act and dismantle a healthcare system that has helped so many of our constituents.
Here we are, over six years after passage of the Affordable Care Act, and what do my Republican colleagues have to show for their oversight efforts? This investigation is just part of the Republicans’ pattern of wasting taxpayer time and money on undermining the Affordable Care Act.
It is time to end this charade. There are many other issues that deserve our attention and oversight. Let’s move on.