Upton expands investigation into ‘secret’ Obamacare meetings
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton is expanding his investigation into the meetings between special interest groups and the Obama White House that set the stage for the passage of Obamacare, sending document requests to 12 industry groups and unions that played a key role in the negotiations.
In April 18 letters to the groups, Upton asks for extensive details and documents about each organization’s interactions with the White House in regards to the health care law.
The requests come as the Obama White House has so far declined to provide its documents about the meetings.
At issue are special deals struck between interest groups and President Obama to either garner the support of major industry sectors or soften their criticism of the health care law.
In one major instance, the pharmaceutical drug sector agreed to back the legislation as long as the costs to that sector did not exceed $80 billion. The drug sector eventually spent over $100 million on television advertisements touting the law.
The industry groups and unions subject to Upton’s request are AARP, AFL-CIO, AdvaMed, AFSCME, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Business Roundtable, Federation of American Hospitals, PHRMA, and SEIU.
Feb. 18, Upton wrote to Nancy-Ann DeParle, who served as Obama’s health care reform “czar” during the period during which Obamacare was considered in Congress and has since been promoted to the president’s deputy chief of staff, requesting a range of documents relating to meetings and negotiations over the health care law.
The letter requested a list of staff working for the White House Office of Health Reform, a list of their meetings on health care with special interest groups, notes or minutes from those meetings and all written communications between the White House and outside groups on changes to the health care system.
In response, White House counsel Robert Bauer suggested the inquiry was too time consuming to comply with.
The request “would constitute a vast and expensive undertaking,” Bauer wrote in a March 4 letter. Instead, the White House sent Upton a series of public relations materials related to public events related to health care reform and a summary of the publicly available White House visitor logs.
Congressional Republicans say the administration has resisted complying with a series of inquiries such as the request for information on the Obamacare meetings.
In a response to Bauer, Upton said in a March 10 letter Republicans were “concerned and disappointed,” and reiterated their request for the documents.
A March 18 letter from Bauer said lawyers from the counsel’s office would contact Upton’s staff to discuss the matter further.
An investigator with Upton’s committee said one month later, and two months since the initial request, the White House has thus far only provided one of the four requests to the committee: a list of staffers for the White House Office of Health Reform.
The requests to the industry groups and unions could help Republicans piece together a picture of what took place in the meetings even without cooperation by the White House.
Additionally, Republicans could subpoena the documents, compelling their release by force of law.
The White House did not reply to a request for comment.