New regulations czar won't testify about ObamaCare delay

The Obama administration’s newly installed regulatory chief has turned down an invitation to testify before a House panel about the decision to postpone a crucial component of the Affordable Care Act, a pair of incensed GOP lawmakers said Wednesday. 

The chairmen of two House Education and Workforce subcommittees with partial jurisdiction over the landmark healthcare law sent a letter last week to White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Howard Shelanski, urging him to appear at a July 23 hearing.

Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) want Shelanski to explain this month’s decision to postpone for one year the law’s contentious employer mandate. The provision would require firms with at least 50 employees to either provide their workers with insurance or pay penalties.

“It is disappointing Administrator Shelanski has refused to testify on the administration’s unilateral delay of the employer mandate,” Roe and Walberg said in a joint statement. “This was a significant decision affecting President Obama’s signature health care law. It is deeply troubling to learn the office in charge of overseeing rules and regulations across the federal government wasn’t involved in this decision.”

The criticism was among the first heaved at Shelanski, who only reported for duty a week ago — and a day after the decision was made to postpone the mandate.

OIRA, housed in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), had been without a permanent administrator for almost a year following the departure of Cass Sunstein from the position.

Asked why Shelanski declined, an OMB spokesperson said via e-mail late Wednesday that OIRA has no role in the subject matter on which he was asked to testify.

This story was posted at 6:28 p.m. and updated with additional information at 7:01 p.m.