October 20, 2020 – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent an urgent follow-up letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today raising additional concerns with the legality of the Trump Administration’s plans to send $200 “Trump cards” to millions of Medicare beneficiaries in an apparent attempt to buy votes ahead of Election Day using $7.9 billion in taxpayer funds.
Last week, the Democratic Committee leaders wrote to Azar seeking information on the legally dubious plan and requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct an expedited review to assess whether the program complies with all relevant federal laws and regulations.
“Since our letter, bipartisan experts have continued to cast doubt on the legality of this proposed program,” the three Committee leaders wrote to Azar. “Most recently, press reports appear to confirm our concerns that the Trump Administration is relying on dubious legal authority to justify a blatant political gambit by the President that would be paid for using taxpayer dollars.”
In today’s letter, the Committee leaders raised additional concerns following a recent press report that HHS General Counsel Robert Charrow warned in an internal memorandum that the “Trump card” program could violate federal election law. According to the report, Mr. Charrow warned that the program’s timing and design were legally suspect, and that moving forward with the program would raise concerns about the inappropriate use of taxpayer funds days before the presidential election. The HHS Office of the General Counsel (OGC) reportedly instructed Administration officials to seek guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before moving forward with the program.
“These new reports continue to raise serious questions about the legality and propriety of the proposed ‘Trump card’ program,” Pallone, Neal and Wyden continued in their letter to Azar. “Accordingly, we seek additional information regarding HHS’s review of the proposed ‘Trump card’ program.”
The Democratic Committee leaders requested a Committee staff briefing by October 27, and the following documents no later than October 26:
- An unredacted copy of the internal memorandum from OGC regarding the proposed “Trump card” program.
- A complete description of the guidance that OGC instructed Administration officials to seek from DOJ’s Public Integrity Section regarding the proposed “Trump card” program and the current status of any such request.
- A copy of the current draft letter the Administration is preparing to send to seniors announcing the rollout of the “Trump card” program.
To read the full letter, click HERE.