Historians will agree that Obama administration’s lasting legacy was its unmitigated efforts to grab power, fraying and perhaps permanently damaging the concept of balance of power among the three branches of government.
The Supreme Court has on at least 12 occasions slapped down the White House. Last week the courts took another step forward to send a message that it would no longer be treated like the red-headed stepchild of government by imposing sanctions on a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer for misleading and lying to the court on the president’s unconstitutional orders on immigration.
Congress, however, has done little to restore its proper role in defending the constitutional balance. It has funded every Obama initiative from Obamacare to the United Nations Treaty on global warming. Unlike the courts, Congress appears to have no appetite to protect itself even from administration officials willing to mislead Congress in sworn testimony.
Take the case of Andrew Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Slavitt has been accused by the House Commerce Committee of giving false testimony to Congress regarding the state-based exchanges established under Obamacare.
At a December 8, 2015 congressional hearing, Slavitt was asked about the status of tax dollars given to state-based exchanges like Oregon and Maryland. The report says:
When asked under oath about the status of American taxpayer dollars invested in the exchanges, Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in December 2015 that [the state-based exchanges] returned over $200 million in grant dollars to the federal government. But information and documents CMS recently provided to the committee fail to corroborate Mr. Slavitt’s testimony and raise significant questions regarding the truthfulness of his statements.
The committee requested documents from the agency to corroborate Slavitt’s claim but found that the agency had recovered only $21.5 million in federal grant dollars from the exchanges. Slavitt claimed that over $200 million had been returned to the treasury, overstating the amount returned by $180 million.
“Mr. Slavitt’s testimony misled the committee in two ways: he misstated the amount of grant money returned to the Treasury, and he wrongfully implied that the funds were returned because of improper spending and CMS’ oversight efforts,” the committee wrote.
The hiring of Slavitt itself was controversial as the White House had to ignore its own ethic rules to allow the former corporate health care official to join the administration. In the process, the new CMS director was allowed to collect a near $5 million tax-free payout from his former employer while making decisions that could benefit the company.
Slavitt has turned his back on clear instances of fraud and abuse by officials who support Obamacare. He ignored the loss of over $300 million in taxpayer funds in Oregon when then governor tasked his political advisor to run Cover Oregon. When the exchange failed to sign up a single person, they pulled the plug on it and threw Oregonians under the federal system – all so not as to threaten the re-election campaign of the governor.
The American Spectator reported that despite the federal government’s paying $179 million in grants to build a state exchange, $45 million was recouped when the contractor on the deal, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, failed to live up to expectations. Rather than return the money to the federal treasury, Slavitt gave Maryland a portion of the proceeds for unexplained reasons. Some called Slavitt’s move the creation of a “Blue State Slush Fund.”
The bottom line is the White House will continue to get away with everything if Congress does not have the self-dignity and self-respect to restore its role in the constitutional process. Slavitt should be impeached, or at least as we saw by the federal judge in the immigration case, sanctioned. If you can lie to Congress without fear, it will only encourage others to do the same.