Issa on Obama Treasury Official’s Testimony: ‘Pretty Close to a Useless Witness’

By Penny Starr | August 1, 2013 | 9:37 AM EDT

Emily McMahon, deputy assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Subcommittee on Energy, Health Policy and Entitlements on July 31, 2013. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNew.com) – Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told an Obama-appointed Treasury official that she was “pretty close to a useless witness” during a hearing into the IRS regulation issued last year that expands tax credits beyond those provided for in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to individuals in states that do not set up health insurance exchanges.

“You were pretty close to a useless witness who came, saying, ‘I don’t know,’” Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said to Emily McMahon, deputy assistant secretary for tax policy at Treasury.

“And if history is of any indication, the things you said you’d take back for the record, you won’t come back with any answers,” he said at the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy, Health Policy and Entitlements on Wednesday.

The IRS regulation, recorded in the federal register on May 23, 2012, expands the tax credit established in the law for eligible enrollees in state insurance exchanges to include those insured through federally established and operated exchanges.

Twenty-seven states have declined to set up insurance exchanges, which will result in “default” to federal exchanges, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, its Subcommittee on Energy, Health Policy and Entitlements, and the House Ways and Means Committee sent a joint letter last week to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, citing a Congressional Research Service analysis of the government’s authority to issue the IRS regulation and Congress’ repeated attempts to have access to documents and other communications describing the decision-making process in creating and implementing the regulation.

“Given the fact that IRS’s rule is contrary to the plain text of the law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, the Committees have sought information related to IRS and Treasury’s rationale for the rule,” the letter stated.

The letter stated the expansion of tax credits would “amount to several hundreds of billions of dollars in new and unauthorized federal spending, to individuals enrolled in exchanges created by the federal government.”

The letter demanded “all documents and communications between March 23, 2010 and May 23, 2012 (the day the rule was published in the Federal Register)” be delivered to the committee by 5 p.m. July 30, one day ahead of the hearing where McMahon testified.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned Emily McMahon, deputy assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury, at a Subcommittee on Energy, Health Policy and Entitlements hearing on July 31, 2013.

In its response, Treasury claimed to have sent 500 documents to the committee, but Issa and other subcommittee members said most of the 386 pages sent were already public and the agency did not fully respond to the letter’s request.

Issa warned McMahon that the committee would get the information it seeks by whatever means necessary.

“If I do not get either in camera all discovery – or hauling it back and forth as appropriate and full disclosure – not only will I issue a subpoena, but I’m going to have to do a lot more,” Issa said.

Citing the huge cost of Obamacare, Issa said American taxpayers deserve to know why a federal agency is changing a law passed by Congress through regulations.

“You’ve said here today under oath that, in fact, you had a significant number of people, career professionals, who did an analysis,” Issa said. “You’ve given this committee no such analysis.

“I’m sending you back, very simply,” he said. “You were pretty close to a useless witness who came saying, ‘I don’t know.’

“And if history is of any indication, the things you said you’d take back for the record, you won’t come back with any answers,” Issa said. “You didn’t send 500 pages. You didn’t send 386 responsive pages.

“You sent almost nothing,” he said.

“The American people, if they’re going to spend trillions of dollars, and if they’re going to have mandates that are not within the language of the legislation, they deserve that analysis,” Issa said. “They deserve it to be non-political – they deserve it to, in fact, have come out of something other than political appointees figuring out how to circumvent a change in the House of Representatives.”

“It’s that simple,” he added.

McMahon declined to respond to Issa’s remarks, and the hearing was adjourned.