Treasury Dep't Sends a No-Answer Man to Explain Employer Mandate Delay
(CNSNews.com) - Two simple questions: When did the Obama administration know that the employer mandate's reporting requirements would be delayed for one year, until 2015? And who made the decision to delay enforcement of that key part of Obamacare?
A Treasury Department policy man gave vague answers to those questions on Thursday, frustrating the man who asked them, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a member of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
"The reason this is important," Burgess told J. Mark Iwry, "is we had (Health and Human Services) Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius, we had Mr. (Gary) Cohen from the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight here at this committee at the very end of April. From them -- 'no delay, we will be ready, it will be on time.'
"I specifically asked Mr. Cohen about contingency plans. I specifically asked Mr. Cohen, are you planning on any delay, are you planning on narrowing the scope of what's provided (in the Affordable Care Act). And even after I reminded him that he was under oath, he replied no.
"So, sometime between April 30 and June 25, that all changed in a big way. And what we're trying to understand in this committee is how did that happen? What was the process, what was the trigger that occurred that caused such a massive change from 'no delay, we'll be ready' to 'wait a year.'
Iwry, a senior adviser to the Treasury Secretary, told the subcommittee he knew that "transition relief" (his description of the one-year delay) would be granted "sometime last month, in the month of June."
"June 25th? June 27th?" asked Burgess. "Would there be a meeting that took place? Would there be a phone call, would there be a record of some type that you could provide to this committee?"
"Congressman, I don't recall any specifics," Iwry responded.
"May I ask that you look at your logs, at your records, and see if you can refresh your memory and provide that to the staff of this committee?" Burgess asked.
He then moved on to the next question: Who made the decision to delay the employer mandate? "Was that made exclusively at Treasury? Health and Human Services, did they have any role at all, or was it also the White House that was involved?"
"Congressman, uh, policy decisions under this, uh, legislation, and particularly under the Affordable Care Act, policy decisions generally, uh, that are, uh, made by the Treasury Department are coordinated with the White House--
"So who did you talk to, who did you discuss this with, who did you coordinate with at the White House?" Burgess interrupted.
"Congressman, I was not, uh, privy to all the conversations."
"So let me ask you a question," Burgess continued: "This was odd the way this happened at 6 p.m. Eastern time on July the second. I think it caught a lot of us by surprise. Valerie Jarrett put it out in a blog post. Was there any discussion with you and (Obama adviser) Valerie Jarrett prior to her posting this on the blog site?"
"Congressman, uh, I don't recall having had any discussions with, uh, Miss Jarrett about this, and indeed, I'm a policy person, not someone who deals with communications or media relations, uh, or congressional relations, so --
"But sir, this was a big deal, and it was rolled out at an odd time," Burgess interjected. "Once again, will you review your logs and your email, were you copied on any email or was Valerie Jarrett copied on any email to you -- can you provide that to this committee, because I think it is important to our understanding of this process."
"Congressman, uh, I'm not the person at Treasury to respond to the question--"
"Fine, we can subpoena all of your records if that's what you prefer," Burgess said.
"Congressman, we are happy to cooperate with this committee and we'll refer this to the people at Treasury who were dealing with this," Iwry said.
In response to another lawmaker, Iwry said he does not anticipate any additional delays ("transition relief") but if it does happen, it will be made on a case by case basis.