By Elise Viebeck - 07/16/14 01:17 PM EDT
House Democrats got heated Wednesday in a hearing about problems with ObamaCare applications, as Republicans failed to get their desired answers from witnesses.
"Time after time in this committee, what we do is look for ways to simply attack the [healthcare] law," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in a fiery statement nearly five minutes long.
Republicans, meanwhile, slammed witnesses from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general's (IG) office, who said repeatedly they did not have the expertise to respond to certain questions.
GOP lawmakers sought to lead the IG representatives into criticizing former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, which the witnesses refused to do.
They also pressed the panel on specific grievances about the Affordable Care Act, asking why the office hasn't spent more time on "who is actually paying these premiums."
"You really don't seem to be on the ball in terms of inspector-generaling in an unbiased way," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). "There is no way I can give [constituents] any confidence that you are doing your job."
Gingrey then spent a brief moment defending people who "need and deserve" subsidies under the healthcare law, saying the Affordable Care Act was passed to help people who can't afford health insurance "by no fault of their own."
The comments provided a look at how rhetoric about ObamaCare is changing on Capitol Hill.
Statements from both sides provide a glimpse into the changing landscape of ObamaCare rhetoric in Congress.
Democrats are more empowered than ever to defend the law as it exceeds expectations on measures like enrollment, reducing the uninsured rate and curbing federal health spending.
In response, Republicans have held fewer and fewer healthcare events and struggled to land punches when they do question witnesses about problems with ObamaCare.
Wednesday's hearing at the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee was the second in a matter of months where GOP lawmakers scrambled to control the hearing's narrative.
"Is the Office of the Inspector General, ever going to look at this question of who is actually paying these premiums?" asked an exasperated Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).
"How are we going to address when there is a double bill, when someone pays twice?"
Kay Daly, the HHS assistant inspector general for audit services, said the questions were "important" but that the IG's office conducts narrowly tailored studies that have not addressed every concern.
"We would be happy to work with you and your staff to design work that would address those concerns," Daly told McMorris Rodgers.