Topics: House of Representatives

GOP will zero in on Obamacare problems this week

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Obamacare,Senate,House of Representatives,Health and Human Services,Health Care,Entitlements,PennAve,Kathleen Sebelius,Energy and Environment

After a government shutdown showdown that lasted the better part of October, the House this week will return to its normal business, with Republicans turning their attention to oversight of Obamacare and closed-door budget talks.

The legislative schedule is light. The House will take up one major bill -- a measure authorizing funding for the nation's ports and waterways infrastructure development. The Senate will not return until Oct. 28.

The House Energy and Commerce panel is likely to draw significant attention this week with a Thursday hearing that lawmakers say will focus on the problematic implementation of Obamacare, an issue that was overshadowed since the beginning by Republicans' failed demands that the law be defunded or delayed.

The law's health insurance exchanges opened Oct. 1, but its enrollment websites have been plagued from the start with glitches and have enrolled few participants.

The House hearing is entitled, "[Obamacare] Implementation Failures: Didn't Know or Didn't Disclose?"

A key witness, however, probably won't be there.

The panel requested Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify, but she has so far declined to appear.

The panel sent a letter to Sebelius asking her to reconsider and hinting they might subpoena her to testify if she didn't do so voluntarily.

"We believe the American people deserve answers to important questions related to the department's implementation of the exchanges and a failure to appear voluntarily to discuss the law's unfolding challenges would only deepen our concerns," the letter stated.

While the Senate is out, a newly formed budget negotiation panel is likely to start formal talks on a long-term federal spending plan.

The panel was created in a deal passed last week that reopened the government until Jan. 15 and extended the nation's borrowing limit until Feb. 7.

The budget panel, made up of 29 lawmakers and headed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have until Dec. 13 to forge a long-term compromise that would keep the government open for the remainder of 2014.

Republicans are looking to preserve spending cuts carved out under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Republicans also want to reform entitlement spending. Democrats, including President Obama, want to raise taxes to raise the revenue needed to replace spending cuts imposed by the sequester.

Obama has proposed closing "corporate tax loopholes" to raise the revenue. He hinted he's open to reforms to Medicare and Social Security.

"The challenge that we have right now are not short-term deficits," Obama said last week. "It's the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security. We want to make sure those are there for future generations."

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