Pressure continued to mount on the Obama administration Thursday as Republican leaders in the House and Senate asked the Government Accountability Office
to investigate HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
' fundraising efforts for a private organization to help implement the healthcare reform law.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education Chairman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking members on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Senate Finance committees, respectively, sent a letter to Comptroller Gene Dodaro
at the GAO asking Dodaro's office to examine Sebelius' efforts to solicit funds for Enroll America, a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to help Americans learn about, enroll in and retain healthcare coverage. Last weekend, Alexander released a statement
saying Sebelius may be violating the Antideficiency Act, a federal law that prohibits departments from entering into contracts or accepting voluntary services that exceed what Congress has appropriated.
The lawmakers also suggested that Sebelius may have sought funds from entities that HHS regulates, which an HHS spokesman has said the department has not done. In their letter, GOP leaders asked the GAO to provide a host of information in their probe, including a list of all outside entities that HHS has solicited funds from to help with the Affordable Care Act's implementation, a list of HHS personnel who have been involved in those fundraising efforts, and a description of any commitments or offers that HHS made to the organizations or individuals Sebelius and her office contacted.
An HHS spokesman reiterated Thursday that HHS has not done anything illegal.
“We are operating well inside of the authority provided to the Secretary by a special provision of the Public Health Services Act, in place since 1976, and which has applied to previous Secretaries," the spokesman said in an email. "Previous Secretaries from both parties have marshaled private-sector support for Medicare Part D, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Children's Inn at NIH, for example.”
Meanwhile, Upton and other members of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a separate letter to Enroll America
on Thursday to Anne Filipic, the organization's president, that asked her to provide the panel with documents and information regarding any discussions the group has had with HHS about solicitations from the healthcare industry to help implement the Affordable Care Act. The lawmakers asked Filipic to respond to these and other requests by May 27.Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond