By Julian Hattem - 11/19/13 11:37 AM EST
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are claiming that their Republican colleagues are playing politics by giving crucial documents about the implementation of ObamaCare to the press before their fellow lawmakers.
Members of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee said on Tuesday that they didn’t receive documents showing that a private consulting team was brought in to assess the development of HealthCare.gov until after The Washington Post and other outlets reported the briefings on Monday night, based on documents from the committee. That’s despite the fact that Republicans on the panel received them on Thursday, they said.
“I’ve got to say, it is not in the tradition of this committee to conduct investigations that way,” Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, said at a hearing on Tuesday.
“We have, clearly, a violation of the practices” of the committee, added Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of Congress. “I speak as a member who's run more investigations than anybody in this room, including probably more than all of them put together.”
He added that he was “pleased to buy a subscription to The Washington Post,” so that he could know what was going on in his own committee.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) compared the complaints to a scene from the movie "Casablanca."
“It is interesting and amusing that the past master of running this committee, Mr. Dingell, would be shocked, shocked and amazed that something was given to The Washington Post yesterday,” he said. “I’m not saying that it was. I don’t know, but if it did happen, it wouldn’t be the first time in this committee’s history that documents were given to the press at the same time they were given” to other lawmakers on the committee.
In a letter to the Republican leaders of the panel, DeGette, Dingell and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the full committee, added that withholding the documents from committee members appears to be a violation of House rules and undermines the panel's work.
”Excluding Democratic members from timely access to the full Committee record calls into question the credibility and fairness of the Committee’s inquiry,” they wrote.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), the subcommittee’s chairman, told DeGette that the documents were part of a large stack of information about the creation of the website. He said that lawmakers would “have a good discussion on” the release of the documents.