WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena on Friday to compel Todd Park, the chief technology officer at the White House, to testify at a hearing next week about what went wrong with the Obamacare website.
The White House called the subpoena “unfortunate and unnecessary” and said that Park was busy fixing the website. The White House earlier had said he was willing to appear voluntarily in December.
“We had hoped the committee would work with us to find an alternative date to give Todd time to focus on the immediate task at hand: getting the website fixed,” said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology.
“We are reviewing the subpoena and will respond as appropriate,” Weiss said.
Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the committee, told Park that he was the only administration witness at the Nov. 13 hearing who was “unwilling to appear voluntarily” and noted that he had taken time out to give an interview to the New York Times in early October.
“Millions of Americans have lost their health insurance,” Issa wrote in a letter to Park.
“They deserve your sworn testimony before their elected representatives about what went wrong - not simply the media outlets that White House officials have deemed an appropriate use of your time,” he said.
The HealthCare.gov website, which launched Oct. 1, was meant to be an easy way for Americans to shop for health insurance and see whether they were eligible for subsidies under President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare program.
But it has been plagued by myriad technical woes, and contractors and outside experts have been working around the clock to try to make it work by the end of November so that Americans have enough time to sign up for insurance before deadlines in the law.
On Friday, Jeffrey Zients, the White House official charged to oversee the fixes, said the website is improving but is still “a long way from where it needs to be.”
A successful healthcare IT developer before joining the Obama administration, Park has been part of the scramble to repair the website.
Earlier on Friday, the White House had scolded Issa for failing to justify why the hearing with Park could not be slated for December.
“There will be ample time to analyze why the technology behind the website did not perform well initially, and whether there are any lessons learned for federal IT acquisition policy that Congress may want to address,” said Donna Pignatelli, assistant director for legislative affairs for the Office of Science and Technology Policy in a letter to Issa.
“Mr. Park is not going anywhere,” Pigantelli had said. (Additional reporting By Karey Van Hall; Editing by Ken Wills)