Members of Congress seeking Kathleen’s Sebelius’s testimony at a hearing on Obamacare’s bungled rollout have been getting the same answer as many prospective enrollees heading to the phones: a busy signal.
A spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Secretary cited “schedule conflicts” for her absence from Thursday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing—and the backlash was swift. “Secretary Sebelius must change her mind and appear at this week’s hearing in the House,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “With more than one trillion taxpayer dollars being spent on a completely defective program, Congress is going to get to the bottom of this debacle.”
Critics have blasted the former Kansas governor, arguing she’s misplacing her priorities. The GOP was quick to jump on her Oct. 7 Daily Show appearance as evidence that she has space in her schedule to answer questions about the troubled health-care launch. “Secretary Sebelius had time for Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress,” Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton said in a statement.
Others don’t see a problem. After all, Sebelius has agreed to testify before the committee on October 30. And supporters have noted that her appearance on the Comedy Central program occurred before she was asked to appear.
As for what’s keeping Sebelius so busy these days, her public schedule shows that she’s spending much of her time traveling to communities where uninsured residents might be unaware of the law to spread the word about access to the exchanges and eligibility for subsidies. According to the most recent polling, a third of Americans still don’t know if the exchanges are available in their state.
So, is Secretary Sebelius spending her time wisely? Check out what fills her packed schedule below.
October 7, 2013 – Sebelius got a pretty warm reception on the Rachel Maddow Show, but her appearance on The Daily Show was much more fraught. She was unable to adequately explain to host Jon Stewart why the individual mandate wouldn’t be delayed because of the botched rollout.
October 8, 2013 – The HHS Secretary was in Tampa, Florida, for a visit to the University of South Florida where she led a panel discussion on the ACA, specifically, it’s effect on women.
October 10, 2013 – Sebelius appeared with Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney and others at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Penn., where she assured a crowd that she was “still working round the clock and throughout the weekend,” to iron out the glitches.
October 16, 2013 – Sebelius “spent the morning in [her] hometown Cincinnati spreading the word about the new Health Insurance Marketplace.”
October 17, 2013 – Sebelius joined a panel at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio with Mayor Michael Coleman where she addressed the rocky rollout. “I can tell you it’s a whole lot better today than it was two weeks ago,” she said.
October 21, 2013 – Sebelius nodded along from her front and center seat in the Rose Garden for Obama’s speech defending The Affordable Care Act. Her byline later appeared on a blog post about how people could apply in the new exchanges.
October 22, 2013 – Sebelius was interviewed by Sanjay Gupta on CNN. When asked if she’d consider resigning over the tech fail, the Secretary said, “I think my job is to get this fully implemented and to get the Web site working right. And that's really what I'm focused on…I work at the pleasure of the president.”
October 23, 2013 – Critics blasted Sebelius for leaving DC to speak at a gala for mental health advocates at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.
October 24, 2013 – While the House Energy and Commerce Committee meets to discuss just how and why the ACA implementation has gone so poorly, Sebelius is traveling to Phoenix, Austin, Texas, and San Antonio to champion the new health-care law.