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DC Bureau in hearing room as Sebelius testifies
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Flanked by security, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius quickly left the House Energy and Commerce Committing Hearing around noon Wednesday, fighting off questions from the media after apologizing to the American public.
As she sped off, the dust settled on the biggest healthcare.gov congressional hearing so far this year.
“You deserve better. I apologize. I am accountable to you for fixing these problems,” Sebelius said.
She also told the American public that a team of experts is scrambling to fix the site, which happened to be offline during the hearing.
There were fiery exchanges from both Democrats and Republicans, as Democrats helped defend President Barack Obama’s signature law. Meanwhile, Republicans kept Sebelius in the hot seat.
“You are the architect of the whole program, and you won’t go into it with the rest of the American public,” said Republican Rep. Bill Long (MS).
Sebelius countered and said she did not sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act because it would be illegal for her to do so.
Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) is one of the committee members, and he was at the hearing asking Sebelius his own questions.
Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro asked Latta whether Republicans in the committee are adding fuel to the fire.
“The number one thing we have here in Congress is oversight responsibility,” Latta said. “And that’s what this hearing was today…was oversight.”
During the hearing, Latta asked Sebelius why the Web site was not tested better before the October 1st rollout. He said he thinks tough questions for Sebelius are an absolute must.
“One sixth of the economy is going to be controlled by one individual, and that’s the secretary of health and human services,” Latta said. “A non-elected individual. That’s why it’s so important that Congress does its job of oversight.”
Questions still remain about whether or not the Web site is secure, when it will be fully working, and how many people are actually using it.
The hearing and the media circus on Capitol Hill is over for today, but Senate leaders are already in the process of planning their own oversight hearings set for next week.