Please explain. The House Ways and Means Committee is getting its first crack at the first Obama administration official to testify about the problems plaguing the healthcare exchange website rollout. Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is facing a barrage of questions about not only the technical “glitches” but also the administration’s insistence that everything would be ready for the Oct. 1 launch. But today’s hearing is just a warm-up for tomorrow’s showdown with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has so far resisted Republican demands she step down in light of the website problems. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has subpoenaed one of the website’s main contractors for documents related to its development. Issa wants to see QSSI’s contracts with the government, the amount of money it has received so far, and all correspondence between company employees and federal officials.
Comprehensive push. Evangelical leaders are converging on Washington, D.C., again today to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Republicans for Immigration Reform also is reiterating calls for a legislative package that covers all aspects of the immigration issue. Although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is optimistic the House can get something done before the end of the year, he does not support the measure passed earlier by the Senate. Boehner also faces opposition from fellow Republicans who oppose more lenient measures, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the country.
Special session. Hawaii state legislators returned to work yesterday for a special session called specifically to pass a bill approving same-sex marriage. If the measure passes, Hawaii will become the 15th state to authorize same-sex marriage. Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie strongly supports the measure, it’s not clear whether it has enough support in the state House and Senate to pass. Abercrombie had to call the special session because lawmakers who support same-sex marriage didn’t have enough votes to authorize the session themselves. Hawaii already recognizes civil unions for same-sex couples. Proponents say the law would be a boon for Hawaii’s tourism industry. The state already is a popular destination for traditional weddings.
Contraceptive mandate. The state of Alabama has joined the lawsuit filed by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. A federal judge dismissed the original lawsuit filed by EWTN because the Catholic television network would not have to pay fines under the law for another year. The new suit, filed yesterday, reinstates the organization’s challenge. “I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions.” Christian organizations, colleges, and businesses have filed 75 lawsuits against the mandate so far. Two have already been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to decide next month whether to hear the cases this term.