WASHINGTON -- House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has again released selectively chosen data to falsely accuse the Obama administration of lying, his Democratic counterpart charged Friday.
Issa (R-Calif.) went on TV Thursday to declare that testing on the day prior to the launch of the Obamacare website showed it could only handle 1,100 people -- not the 60,000 for which the Obama administration said it was planning, and many fewer than the 250,000 who tried.
"Jay Carney is paid to say things that aren't so," Issa told Fox News. "But in this case, [U.S. Chief Technology Officer] Todd Park and other people who knew the facts, who had to know the facts. And the facts were, from documents we received from lead contractors, that they slowed down to an unacceptable level at 1,100 users. Well, in fact, Todd Park was telling us that 60,000 was the target, and at 250,000 they just couldn't handle it. The truth was their goal wasn't, according to documents, wasn't even 60,000. Their goal was 10,000. They reached 1,100.
"So of course at 250,000 they were never going to work, which meant this was a stillborn site," Issa said.
He also sent a letter to Park threatening to subpoena him for a hearing next week.
Issa based his charge on a document that he appears to have misunderstood or misrepresented, said the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.).
That document shows that one specific system within the much larger Healthcare.gov framework, not the whole system, maxed out at 1,100 users. The larger system could handle 58,000 users, according to testimony to the committee from Park and Henry Chao, the Deputy Chief Information Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Both men testified extensively and explained the testing to Issa and his staffers before Issa made his charge, Cummings said.
"This is not the first time you have accused a White House official of being a 'paid liar,' a practice that several of your Republican colleagues have condemned," Cummings wrote in a letter to Issa Friday. "Given that your staff participated in Mr. Chao's transcribed interview last week -- before you issued your press release and conducted your television interview -- it is unclear why you did not disclose the information Mr. Chao provided, but instead chose to accuse Mr. Park and Mr. Carney of misleading the American people."
Cummings allowed that testing of the health care website was not good enough, but suggested Issa would only make matters worse by spreading false information.
"It is reckless and highly irresponsible to make unsubstantiated public allegations by taking information out of context, especially when the Committee has information in its possession that directly contradicts these unfounded allegations," Cummings wrote. "Rather than rush to issue a subpoena to Mr. Park based on these unsubstantiated allegations, which could impair efforts to improve the website, I propose that we accept the offer to receive a briefing from Mr. Park this month and that we schedule an additional hearing in December to obtain his full testimony.
"I sincerely hope that we can proceed in a thoughtful and bipartisan manner as we continue to review this issue," Cummings wrote.
Issa's spokeswoman did not immediately answer a request for comment.
UPDATE: 3:18 p.m. -- A spokesperson for Issa later said that Cummings was the one being selective, emailing a detailed response:
Ranking Member Cummings' attempted distortions are continually shameless.
While Ranking Member Cummings holds out Mr. Chao's testimony that the system was "designed to handle 50,000 concurrent users," he omits Chao's reply when asked how many it could actually handle on October 1:
Mr. Chao: Maybe 8,000? Somewhere under 10,000. I don't have the exact metrics, but I know that it wasn't 30,000 registrations per hour.
The documents released by Chairman Issa state that the night before the launch of HealthCare.gov, the site was being worked on because, "Currently we are able to reach 1100 users before response time gets too high." They also note that the next day testers discussed the need to, "Conduct more thorough testing with FFM [Federally Facilitated Marketplace] to reach targets of up to 10,000 concurrent users in the next few days." The Administration has still not explained why HealthCare.gov was launched amid clear warnings of failure.
Although he selectively omits it, Ranking Member Cummings knows that Mr. Chao wasn't asked about these documents because the Committee did not possess them at the time of his interview on November 1. If Ranking Member Cummings genuinely wants to be seen as a partner in oversight, he should start acting like it instead of using his position to twist facts and create false distractions on behalf of the Administration.
UPDATE: 8:07 p.m. -- Despite Cummings' objections, Issa decided he would subpoena Park, and informed the tech official in a letter. Read the letter here.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.