Sebelius: In the Line of Fire
If there's one thing Americans have learned, it's that the ObamaCare rollout wasn't a technological hiccup, bug, or snafu. It wasn't a "glitch," any more than the Titanic was a glitch. This was a system-wide meltdown -- taking the federal government's reputation for incompetence to new heights.
When Fox News polled voters this week, 60% said ObamaCare's implementation is a joke (one that's unfortunately on us). According to the survey, a majority of the people used negative words to describe the law -- another major failure of the administration, which spent $53 million of your hard-earned dollars just trying to improve ObamaCare's image. Overall, more voters want to "get rid of" the President's health care policy (51%) than keep it in place (41%). And considering media's growing disgust with Healthcare.gov, those numbers aren't likely to improve anytime soon.
Yesterday, Americans got a front row seat into HHS's dysfunction, as ObamaCare's contractors spent close to five hours detailing the half-billion dollar bomb of a website. To a man, they all insisted Health and Human Services (HHS) knew the system was full of flaws and plowed ahead anyway. "We informed [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] that more testing was necessary... [and that] pieces of the system that we had tested had issues," said Andrew Slavitt. The pace was so rushed, another testified, that "due diligence" didn't begin "until the last two weeks of September" -- maybe later.
So far, the consequences of their haste have been severe. As Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) pointed out, the security features of the website logging Americans' personal medical information are almost nonexistent. Buried in the registration process, Barton explains, is a warning that applicants should have "no reasonable expectation of privacy." "This is part of the signup that is hidden," he fumed. "The applicant does not see this, but it is in the source code." Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) tried to talk over Barton's concerns by accusing conservatives of holding a "monkey court" and trying to scare Americans away from signing up for ObamaCare (a job HHS hardly needs our help with).
Other Republicans zeroed in on the "you-have-to-buy-it-to-find-out-what's-in-it" provision, a feature that severely crippled the website's progress. By order of HHS, customers have to register for their policies before they see its benefits, a backwards approach that ropes users in to coverage they might not want. Had Secretary Kathleen Sebelius let visitors shop around, some of the technical issues could have been avoided. "The real question that Kathleen, Secretary Sebelius, has to answer next week," pressed Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) "is why the brows[ing] option was turned off."
Unfortunately, that's just one of many pieces of information that resides with the HHS chief. And if Sebelius won't provide them, House Government Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will subpoena them. Either way, the calls for Sebelius's firing are only intensifying. Even Bill Daley, Obama loyalist and former chief of the President's staff, admitted the problems run so deep that not even terminating Sebelius will solve them. "To me that's kind of like firing Captain Smith on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg." To her detractors, the Secretary had this to say, "The majority of people calling for me to resign, I would say, are people who I don't work for and who do not want this program to work in the first place." (I'm sure the taxpayers footing her salary were thrilled to hear that.)
For several Americans, ObamaCare's failings aren't just technological -- they're moral. Yesterday, Eden Foods, another company battling the law's contraception-abortion mandate, lost a round in court. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a corporate plaintiff isn't a "person" and as such, protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Judges dismissed the claim, dealing a big blow to the Michigan company owner by Michael Potter. Potter, who is a devout Catholic, argued that the mandate violates his "deeply held religious beliefs." That didn't matter to this court, which seems to believe that company executives aren't eligible for the same rights as other Americans. The First Amendment doesn't distinguish between people who own businesses and people who don't -- and neither should the courts.
The Brawl's in Obama's Court...
Speaking of the courts, President Obama is trying to add to his with one of the most liberal judicial activists the nation has ever seen. Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, the White House's pick for the second most powerful court in the country, the D.C. Circuit Court, could be on the Senate floor for confirmation as early as next week. How dangerous is Pillard? Ed Whalen of NRO's Bench Memos describes her as "less moderate" than the most activist liberal in appellate court history. Apart from calling abstinence education "unconstitutional," the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General argues that abortion is necessary to help "free women from historically routine conscription into maternity."
As if her militant feminism wasn't apparent enough, she takes the opportunity in some of her writings to slam anyone who opposes the abortion-contraception mandate as "reinforce[ing] broader patterns of discrimination against women as a class of presumptive breeders." Just as shocking, Pillard has lashed out at ultrasound technology as "deceptive" and manipulative. Interestingly enough, the Senate is considering Pillard's nomination at the same time as Senate Republicans are circulating a bill to reduce the number of justices on the D.C. court by three.
Considered by many to be a stepping-stone to the Supreme Court, the D.C. Circuit Court is routinely criticized for retaining so many judges with such a light caseload. America can't afford to give a lifetime appointment to a radical ideologue! Contact your senators and urge them to vote no on Nina Pillard.
** Is the Pentagon trying to bury its sources for its controversial anti-Christian briefings? Ken Klukowski shines some light on the potential behind-the-scenes partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in his breaking news column for Breitbart.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.