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 Documents reveal partisan attacks, questionable claims about teacher layoffs and HHS Secretary Sebelius admission that sequestration would not affect agency operations

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received documents on March 19, 2013, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that Deputy Secretary of State William Corr had sent highly politicized letters to the governors of all 50 states attacking Congress and providing misleading information about the effects of the budget sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  The documents also contained memos from Secretary of HHS Katherine Sebelius indicating that sequestration would have little effect upon department operations.

The documents came in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request  made to HHS on February 26, 2013. The FOIA request asked for: “Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the projected effects of the potential budget sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.”

Documents provided by HHS to Judicial Watch included letters sent in early March from Corr to the governors of each of the 50 states politicizing the sequestration:

“As you are likely aware, due to the failures of Congress [emphasis added] to reach a deal on balanced deficit reduction to avoid sequestration, a series of spending cuts call sequestration will cancel approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the federal government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year.”

Each of the fifty Corr letters detail alleged specific cuts for each state, including the previously debunked claim that sequestration would lead to “school systems forced to lay off teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff.” Other threatened cuts include: Head Start and Early Head Start, Social Services, Senior Nutrition Programs, Maternal and Child Healthcare, and Substance Abuse Treatment/Prevention.

In a Washington Post article on February 27, 2013, entitled “4 Pinocchio’s for Arne Duncan’s false claim of ‘pink slips’ for teachers,” the Post found that earlier claims by Secretary of the Department of Education (DOE) Duncan of teacher layoffs “appears to be hyperbole”

“[T]he Education Department for days was unable to cough up the name of a single school district where these notices had been delivered … [T]here is no reason to hype the statistics — or to make scary pronouncements on pink slips being issued based on misinformation. Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.”

Notwithstanding the failure of the DOE to produce “the name of a single school district “ where sequestration had resulted in layoffs, Corr, in his official letter to the governors of all 50 states, informed the governors that they would be forced to lay off their state’s school teachers.

Other documents show HHS had informed its own employees that the sequestration would not affect the ability of HHS to carry out its wide-ranging programs. In a memo dated December 20, 2012, Secretary of HHS Katherine Sebelius informed HHS employees:

“I do not expect our day-to-day would change dramatically on or immediately after January 2, should sequestration occur. This means we will not be executing any immediate personnel actions, such as furloughs, on that date.”

In a HHS memo dated March 1, 2013, Sebelius again minimized the impact of the sequestration, reassuring HHS employees:

“It is vitally important to keep in mind the distinction between the reduction in spending authority triggered by the sequestration and the complete absence of funding associated with a government shutdown. Unlike a shutdown, sequestration does not trigger an automatic break in service. Please plan to continue your scheduled work, even if sequestration goes into effect as anticipated.”

“The documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal a well-orchestrated attempt by the Obama administration to mislead the American people and the nation’s governors,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These propaganda letters are a misuse of taxpayer resources and show that HHS, the agency charged with running Obamacare, is out of control.”

3,497 Pages of Documents Include HHS Correspondence and Internal Emails Regarding Obamacare Waivers

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Washington, DC — September 8, 2011Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it recently obtained 3,497 pages of documents from the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Judicial Watch obtained the records as a result of a Freedom of Information Act FOIA) lawsuit filed on December 30, 2010 (Judicial Watch v. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 10-2328)).The records include internal HHS email correspondence and strategic documents, as well as email communications with unions and companies applying for waivers. The records also include preliminary drafts and multiple versions of the health care plan along with comments from the Office of Management and Budget, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other agencies with concerns and suggestions for revising the plan.The majority of the communications related to the granting of waivers by the Secretary of HHS exempting companies and unions from the minimum annual cap on the amount payable to an individual in benefits. Such waivers enable companies and unions to keep their existing plans in place until January 1, 2014.As of July 2011, 1,472 one-year waivers and 106 three-year waivers were granted, covering some 3.4 million enrollees, more than half of which belong to unions. Yet, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union members account for only about 12% of the total workforce.Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from HHS regarding closed-door health care meetings between union officials and Vice President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Obamacare Czar Nancy-Ann Min DeParle. The documents include a list of all of the labor union leaders who attended a meeting with President Obama, along with brief biographical information on each participant. The list includes: Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO; Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Jim Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among other Big Labor leaders. The documents suggest that the key provisions of the Obamacare law were written solely to address the concerns of union interests.Speaking at a rally for organized labor over Labor Day Weekend attended by Barack Obama, Hoffa criticized the Tea Party and urged attendees to get out the vote for Democrats: “President Obama, this is your army…Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.”“This first batch of documents has the gory bureaucratic details of the Obamacare mess. The Obama administration has tried to keep its government takeover of healthcare veiled in secrecy, especially the details of these waivers. Waiving the law for 3.4 million Americans is unfair and an affront to the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It seems corrupt when political supporters in Big Labor are getting a disproportionate number of waivers from Obamacare. Unions helped write the Obamacare law, and then get exempted from it! Now Big Labor is paying back these waiver favors with campaign support for Barack Obama. Judicial Watch is committed to bringing as much transparency as possible to Obamacare, especially this ongoing abuse of the ‘waiver’ process.”

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