Dems de­fend Se­be­lius af­ter coun­sel finds she vi­o­lated law

Modern Healthcare - - LATE NEWS -

Some Democrats de­fended HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius af­ter the U.S. Of­fice of Spe­cial Coun­sel found she vi­o­lated fed­eral law in “ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ous par­ti­san re­marks” while act­ing in her of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity as head of HHS. “If she made a mis­take and said some­thing she shouldn’t have at some event, that is of lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance com­pared to the im­por­tance of the health­care re­form ef­fort that she is lead­ing,” Sen. Shel­don White­house (D-R.I.) told Mod­ern Health­care. The OSC con­cluded in an opin­ion de­liv­ered to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama that Se­be­lius crossed the line when she ad­dressed a Fe­bru­ary gala of the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign—a not-for­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that works to achieve equal­ity for les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans—and said of Obama that it’s im­per­a­tive that “we make sure that in Novem­ber he con­tin­ues to be pres­i­dent for an­other four years.” It was the first find­ing by the in­de­pen­dent of­fice of a Hatch Act vi­o­la­tion by a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial since 2007. Sen. Kent Con­rad (DN.D.), chair­man of the Bud­get Com­mit­tee, was sim­i­larly dis­mis­sive of the find­ing. “This is the silly sea­son, so all kind of charges fly around right be­fore an elec­tion,” Con­rad told Mod­ern Health­care. Sen. Or­rin Hatch (R-Utah), rank­ing mem­ber on the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, which over­sees HHS, said if it the par­ties were re­versed, “there wouldn’t be this lit­tle pass-off like it was noth­ing.” Al­though vi­o­la­tions of the ban against of­fi­cials en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity while act­ing in their of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity can be cause for fir­ing, any pu­n­ish­ment is at the dis­cre­tion of the pres­i­dent. HHS re­sponded in a state­ment that it had re­clas­si­fied the event as po­lit­i­cal and the U.S. Trea­sury was re­im­bursed for travel ex­penses.

Se­be­lius, seen an­nounc­ing HRC’s Health­care Equal­ity In­dex in June, was found to have en­gaged in il­le­gal po­lit­i­cal speech while ad­dress­ing the group in Fe­bru­ary.

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