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White House calls subpoena for top tech official 'unnecessary'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The White House is reviewing a subpoena for testimony from its top technology chief, but a spokesman called the request from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee an “unnecessary” distraction from the administration’s work to fix the broken health insurance website.

Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said officials will “respond as appropriate” to the subpoena issued Friday by committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). Issa is investigating why the federal website, three years in the making, was not ready for launch on Oct. 1.

"This is an unfortunate and unnecessary step since we made clear several times that Todd Park is willing to testify,” Weiss said. “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.”

In a letter sent with the summons Friday, Issa noted that Park, the U.S. chief technology officer, was first asked to brief the committee on the troubles with healthcare.gov on Oct. 21. The White House responded Oct. 30 that Park was too busy fixing the flawed website, Issa said.

“Your unwillingness to appear before the committee continues an unfortunate pattern of the current administration when it comes to matters of transparency and congressional oversight,” Issa wrote.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner have both testified twice before House and Senate committees on problems related to the launch of the online insurance marketplace.

Despite the White House’s explanation for Park’s delay in testifying, Issa noted that Park was interviewed by The New York Times for an Oct. 7 article on the website’s problems.

Lawmakers “deserve your sworn testimony,” Issa’s letter stated, “not simply the media outlets that White House officials have deemed an appropriate use of your time away from working on the website project.”

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter: @khennessey

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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