Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) badgered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during this morning’s Energy and Commerce hearing focused on the Independent Payment Advisory Board, insisting that HHS should cut a check to Congress for the money it has not spent in establishing the panel:
BURGESS: Who has been nominating to that board and is awaiting confirmation?
SEBELIUS: No one
BURGESS: And why is that?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think Congressman, the board is not activated until 2014, and I know that the President is in discussion with a number of potential nominees and I know that he’s consulted with various members of Members of Congress, but it will be up and running at the time.
BURGESS: So can we keep that $15 million that’s due October 1st because you apparently don’t need it…
SEBELIUS: We have no intention of using the money before there is a board up and running.
BURGESS: Well, who does the check go to?
SEBELIUS: I don’t think there is a check, there is money available that we would draw down.
BURGESS: Can we have that money back? We’re in a debt crisis, you may have heard.
First, keeping the Medicare growth rate below a certain point would do far more to reduce government spending than returning the $15 million needed to establish the board. Second, Sebelius couldn’t cut a check to Burgess even if she wanted to. The money is a mandatory annual appropriations that likely expires at the end of the year if it’s not spent by the agency. As Burgess well knows, that’s how the federal government operates.