One had to feel a bit sorry for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over her totally inadequate responses under withering questioning by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) when she testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee on April 27. Because the subject was the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, committee members were given wide latitude to ask questions. Gowdy used the opportunity to zero in on the horrendous HHS mandate which destroys religious liberty by forcing religious institutions to provide services that violate their conscience.
Sebelius stated that the mandate “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.” Please note that this is the standard administration spin. Gowdy asked about how the “balance” was created and under what constitutional authority. He said there are: “only three balancing tests that I am aware of when it comes to matters of constitutional significance,” and added, “I am sure you can see that religious liberty is a fundamental right.”
Then, the direct questions: “which of these three constitutional balancing tests were you making reference to when you said you balanced things?” Sebelius punted, said she was not a constitutional authority and used the “this is above my pay grade” spin. It got worse for Sebelius.
Gowdy: “Do you agree with me that government cannot force certain religious beliefs on its citizens?”
Sebelius: “Yes, sir.”
Sebelius: “The separation of church and state.”
Gowdy: “Can the government decide which religious beliefs are acceptable and not acceptable.”
Sebelius: “No, sir.”
Gowdy asks if: “before this rule was promulgated did you read any of the Supreme Court cases on religious liberty?”
Sebelius: “I did not.”
Gowdy: “Was there a legal memo you relied on?”
Sebelius: She relied on “discussions.”
Sebelius was only saved by Rep. Gowdy’s time running out.
Kudos to Rep. Gowdy who trashed the administration spin and made Sebelius look foolish for trying to rely on it.
See video of the exchange here.