Shelby: Sebelius's Blatant Disregard for Accountability on Full Display

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, today at a hearing on the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), sharply criticized Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s refusal to testify on the $69.8 billion spending plan that she crafted.  In her place, officials from various agencies under the Department’s jurisdiction testified.  As a result, the Appropriations Committee received no testimony on the top level management and funding decisions made in HHS’s budget proposal.  Shelby and other committee Republicans stressed that this impedes their ability to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely as they craft spending measures for the coming fiscal year.   

The full text of Shelby’s remarks is below. Click here to watch a video of the speech.

Thank you, Chairman Harkin.

First of all, I want to just restate what I have said many times.  I appreciate what all of you do and what you are trying to do.  And we are short of money but not short of ideas, not short of people that would be great scientific investigators.  We have to make those tough decisions.  I hope we make some wise ones but I do support what you do, individually and collectively.

Now I want to direct my remarks, not to you but to Secretary Sebelius:

On April 2, 2009, then-Governor Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee at her confirmation hearing to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

At that hearing, the Chairman of the Finance Committee asked her the following direct question:

“Do you agree without reservation to respond to any reasonable summons to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of Congress if you are confirmed?�

Governor Sebelius answered unequivocally:

“I do.  And I look forward to it.â€?

The then-nominee gave us her word that she would appear when asked to do so.  Apparently she has changed her mind. 

This subcommittee and, of course, this committee has two former Secretaries: Senator Alexander who was Secretary of Education, and Senator Johanns [who was Secretary of Agriculture].

What has not changed, however, is this subcommittee’s responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars appropriated to HHS are spent wisely.  That is why we wanted Secretary Sebelius up here.

In light of the failures of Obamacare, it is entirely “reasonable� to expect the Secretary to explain how she spent money previously allocated to her department before we consider her request for $69.8 billion more.

Nevertheless, Secretary Sebelius has reneged on her promise to the Senate and refused a reasonable summons to appear and testify here today. 

Why?  Because according to the Obama Administration she doesn’t want to. 

That’s not sufficient. We deserve better than this. We deserve more respect on this committee.

Thank you.