Kathleen Sebelius knew that Wednesday’s U.S. House hearing about the problems with the Obamacare website was going to be tough – but perhaps she wasn’t prepared for just how tough.
The Health and Human Services Secretary, who is in charge of implementing the president’s signature domestic policy, could be heard on a hot microphone as she turned to and aide and said, ‘Don’t do this to me’ during a pause in the questioning.
It’s not entirely clear what ‘this’ she was referring to. However, she was in the midst of fielding questions about whether she would sign up for an Obamacare insurance exchange for herself.
Sebelius offered a public apology and insisted that the performance of the website had ‘improved.’
But moments before her hotly anticipated appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Obamacare website crashed and was apparently unavailable in at least 20 states. Even those congressmen who came to question her were unable to load the site in their browsers before the hearing.
Midway through the hearing, Missouri Republican Billy Long grilled Sebelius over whether she would sign up for the insurance exchanges offered on the Obamacare website. He asked her to answer ‘yes or no.’
It was then that Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman chimed in and asked for the floor.
That’s when Sebelius turned to an aide sitting behind her and whispered, ‘Don’t do this to me.’
Waxman, from California, continued the line of questioning.
‘If you are able to do what the gentleman just suggested … and went to buy an individual policy, would you be able to find one that would be able to protect you from cheap shots?’ he asked.
Sebelius responded: ‘I would gladly join the exchange if I didn’t have affordable coverage in my workplace.’
During the hearing, she offered up a mea culpa for the glitches in the site, which have prevented many Americans from signing up for third-party health insurance.
‘I am as frustrated as anyone,’ she told Americans. ‘You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.’
As she faces calls for her resignation from several lawmakers, Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper pressed her on whether the buck ultimately stops with her, or with President Obama.
After several minutes of dissembling, she finally sniped while shaking her head: ‘Whatever. Yes, he is the president. He is responsible for government programs.’
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