U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., joined several of their Republican Senate colleagues Tuesday in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan questioning why the Department of Education is actively helping to implement Obamacare.
"While we understand that the effects of the President's health care law will be felt by parents, teachers, and their families, we are unfamiliar with how the Department of Education's involvement in implementation will further the mission of educating our nation's students," Isakson and Chambliss wrote in the letter, which was led by Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and John Thune, R-S.D, and signed by a total of 19 senators.
Isakson serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DoE.)
The Department of Education is one of several agencies outside of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury that, according to recent news reports, is actively engaged in promoting and the implementation of Obamacare, even though the health care law is unrelated to the agencies' core missions.
Last month, Isakson joined several of his Republican colleagues in writing a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) questioning its actions of using its time and resources to enroll Americans in health insurance marketplaces created by Obamacare. The letter came in response to the FDA sending a notice to families, individuals, small businesses and clinicians promoting insurance market changes in the new health care law. The senators wrote that FDA communications should reflect the agency's actual statutory mission.
Joining Isakson and Chambliss in the letter today to Secretary Duncan were Senators Alexander, Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Thune.
The senators' letter is below:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
We write to express concern with a recent announcement you made regarding the relationship between the U.S. Department of Education and the implementation of the President's health care law.
During a recent interview with Lois Romano of POLITICO, you stated that the Department of Education will be assisting with the dissemination of information. Additionally, you indicated that there is a team at the Department of Education currently helping with implementation.
While we understand that the effects of the President's health care law will be felt by parents, teachers, and their families, we are unfamiliar with how the Department of Education's involvement in implementation will further the mission of educating our nation's students.
To better understand the statutory authority, cost, and scope of the activities the Department of Education has taken, please provide a detailed response to the following questions:
1. How much is the Department of Education spending this fiscal year to further the implementation of the President's health care law, and how much does the Department of Education anticipate spending in each fiscal year from 2014 to 2017? What specific appropriation accounts and programs are being used?
2. If the Department of Education is receiving these funds through the Department of Health and Human Services, what instructions were included with this funding and how many Department of Education employees will be dedicated to this effort?
3. How are the actions by the Department of Education different from those taken by the Department of Health and Human Services? Have you coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure your efforts are not duplicative?
4. What authority does the Department of Education have to disseminate information and assist with the implementation of the President's health care law?
5. How do the Department of Education's activities further the education of our nation's students?
6. What specific actions are you asking schools to take without additional federal resources? How does that not constitute an unfunded mandate? In addition to these questions, we request that you please provide a detailed plan of your current and future involvement with the implementation of the President's health care law by July 30, 2013.