Embattled Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared flustered during Wednesday testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as she struggled to answer questions about an explosive Politico Magazine report written by Government Accountability Institute President and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer.
The report revealed the White House calendar records a single one-on-one meeting between her and President Barack Obama in over three-and-a-half years.
“How many times did you actually visit with the President since 2009 or 2010 when you came on board?” asked Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), who is also a medical doctor. “How many personal visits did you have with him at the White House regarding the Affordable Care Act?”
“A lot,” said Sebelius.
“Can you verify that?” asked Gingrey.
The chair then said, “The Gentleman’s time has expired.”
“I, I…,” a flustered Sebelius said while raising her hands in the air.
The GAI’s report and Schweizer’s Politico Magazine op-ed revealed the White House’s official calendar and the Politico presidential calendar list just a single meeting between Obama and Sebelius from July 12, 2010 to November 30, 2013. On Friday, HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters released a statement claiming that Sebelius and Obama held “countless” one-on-one meetings together and that “dozens” of those private meetings were held in the last year alone.
Similarly, when asked by NBC News reporter Peter Alexander and ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl about the GAI’s explosive report, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed Sebelius has one-on-one meetings with Obama “frequently” and that “it’s safe to say that Kathleen Sebelius has been one of the more frequent visitors to and attendants to meetings with the president.
However, Carney admitted to Jonathan Karl that he had no numbers, figures, or dates of meetings but said, “I think on this case, they’ll [HHS] have information for you.” But today during her testimony, Sebelius could only answer, “A lot,” when questioned how many times she had met with the president. And HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters has yet to release the “countless” and “dozens” of dates she claims Obama and Sebelius met one-on-one over the last three-and-a-half years leading up to the Obamacare rollout.
Analysts say the GAI report hits at the core question of presidential leadership and executive management, traits that when damaged can do significant damage to a president’s popularity, especially among Independent voters. Former White House adviser to four presidents of both parties, David Gergen, said on CNN that the GAI’s report demonstrated “malfeasance” by the Obama White House. “The fact that he was not meeting with her one-on-one, I think, frankly, is not so much an indictment of her but of the White House operation,” said Gergen. “At the same time three years pass with no one-on-one meetings according to this Politico article. The president had 277 one-on-one meetings with other members of his cabinet.”
Other GOP committee members expressed frustration with Sebelius for what they considered evasive and misleading answers.
“We just don’t get the truth out of you!” Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said to Sebelius. “It’s like talking to the Republic of Korea.”
Democrats on the committee like Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) laughed off Republican criticisms of Obamacare and said GOP concerns over millions of American families receiving insurance cancellations proves Republicans are “living on Mars.” Pallone added: “The reality is the Affordable Care Act is working…I’m proud of this law.”
“Republicans are afraid this law is going to be popular,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
Obama claims he was never notified of problems with healthcare.gov prior to the website’s disastrous October 1 launch.
The White House and HHS have yet to release the dated list of one-on-one meetings each claims occurred between Obama and Sebelius.