By Jonathan Easley - 11/13/13 10:24 AM EST
The White House sent the administration’s chief technology officer to testify Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee on the botched ObamaCare rollout, complying with a subpoena issued by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
Issa and Chief Technology Officer Todd Park appeared to share a laugh as they greeted one another ahead of the hearing.
As Wednesday's hearing began, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, thundered that Issa had “crossed the line” with the subpoena.
“I believe you owe Mr. Park an apology, not a subpoena,” Cummings said.
Early in the hearing, Cummings seethed at Issa, who on numerous occasions said he was sending a witness back to the minority party so he could be allowed to “rehabilitate” his image.
The ranking Democrat had already accused Issa of slandering Park in an interview on Fox News last week. The chairman told the network Park was “engaging in a pattern of interference and false statements” by misrepresenting website test results that showed how much capacity the site could handle ahead of its launch.
Cummings said that “all we have is our reputation” and asked Park to respond directly to Issa’s comment.
“Let me ask you this way,” Cummings said. “Did you engage in a pattern of interference and false statements?”
“No I did not,” Park replied. “I relayed my best understanding at the time and I’ll continue to do that as my understanding gets better.”
Park kept cool as the committee leaders locked horns.
“I don’t take any of this personally,” he said.
The administration has argued that by demanding Park appear before the panel, Republicans were preventing him from working to fix the website.
Issa says he’s offered a handful of opportunities for Park to speak in front of his committee but was continuously rebuffed by the White House, which said Park was too busy to appear.
Issa said Park’s “long history of involvement in the development and rollout of HealthCare.Gov” made his testimony crucial to ensuring the site gets fixed.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday bemoaned the ”unnecessary step” of Issa’s subpoena, and said the administration informed Issa that Park would be available at some point.
Park reiterated that point on Wednesday but did so in a gracious nod to Issa.
“I’m the son of immigrants of Korea. I have incredible love for this country; I have huge respect for this institution and its role in our democracy,” he said. “If the committee wanted me to be here today, and decided I should be here today, then I’m happy to be here today.”
But Park was primarily summoned to brief lawmakers on the status of the broken HealthCare.gov website.
In his opening statement, Park acknowledged that the website experience has been “highly frustrating for many Americans.”
“These problems are unacceptable,” he said.
“The team is making progress,” Park added. “The website is getting better each week, as we work to improve its performance, its stability, and its functionality. As a result, more and more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in, and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans. We have much work still to do, but are making progress at a growing rate.”
— This report was updated at 12:12 p.m.