NASHVILLE - Tennessee Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be breaking federal law by raising private to help implement the federal health care law and compared her actions to the Iran-Contra scandal.
"Secretary Sebeliuis' fundraising for and coordinating with private entities helping to implement the new health care law may be illegal, should cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress," Alexander said.
The ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate committee that oversees health care policy, Alexander likened Sebelius' actions to the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal. That erupted when it was discovered that a Reagan administration official, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, raised money and directed its spending through private groups to arm Nicaraguan rebels after Congress refused to appropriate funds.
"Only the Congress has the authority to appropriate money," Alexander said during a stop in Nashville. "And when the secretary seeks to do things outside of the government, which Congress refuses to do, the Constitution doesn't permit [it] and the federal law makes it illegal."
The Washington Post this week reported Sebelius was asking health industry executives to assist groups including Enroll America, a nonprofit coalition working to ensure Americans get coverage under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Alexander said her actions may violate the Anti-Deficiency Act, which among other things prohibits accepting voluntary services for the United States or employing most personal services not authorized by law.
He said he plans to ask the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office to look into the matter.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, HHS spokesman Jason Young said that, "If it's a regulated company, we generally stop there. If it's one of these other outside groups or people, then we ask them to please support good work."
Congressional Republicans have blocked additional federal funds to implement the 2010 law, major provisions of which take effect in 2014.
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