Dems decry exclusion from O-Care meeting

Two top House Democrats slammed a Treasury Department inspector general on Tuesday for going along with a Republican request to exclude their staff from a meeting with Republicans about ObamaCare data security issues.

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Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Gerry Connolly (Va.) told Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, that the move undermined his nonpartisan position.

Cummings and Connolly said that George’s office said the inspector general complied with a request from House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to keep Democratic staff out of the meeting in late January on a new Affordable Care Act audit, and that Democrats only learned of the meeting after the fact.

“Your actions cause observers to question whether the scope of your new audit on the Affordable Care Act is being inappropriately influenced by Chairman Issa and his staff, similar to the way they influenced the scope of your audit on IRS screening of applicants for tax-exempt status,” Cummings and Connolly wrote to George.

George’s office outlined the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups in May 2013, a practice that the agency apologized for in the days before the inspector general report was released.

But Cummings, Connolly and other Democrats later criticized George and his audit, saying it allowed Republicans to focus on the targeting of Tea Party groups — and not any similar treatment to liberal organizations.

George, a former GOP staffer at the Oversight panel, has denied that claim, and Republicans insist that the IRS treated groups on the right far more shabbily than progressive groups.

In their letter to George, Cummings and Connolly ask that Democrats receive the same briefing that Issa’s staff receive last month, and urged him to no longer consent to holding those sorts of meetings with just one party.

The Democrats also ask for any documents related to assertions made last year by the inspector general’s staff that Issa had requested that the audit of the IRS treatment of tax-exempt groups “narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”