The Energy and Commerce Committee is now a bit more than two hours into its hearing on HealthCare.gov. If you've missed it, this tweet pretty much sums up the proceedings:
To be fair, that's not just true for Republicans on the E&C Committee. It's true for the Democrats, too. Most Republicans have spent the hearing showing that they've spent little or no time trying to understand HealthCare.gov's problems and they're even less interested in fixing them. But most Democrats have spent the hearing accusing Republicans of bad faith and reminding people that the GOP just shut down the government. For the most part, the assembled contractors have retreated behind a haze of acronyms, optimistic spin and uncomfortable silences.
(Two quick exceptions: Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the committee, has done an excellent job. And Diana DeGette, one of the top Democrats on the committee, actually seemed upset about the problems of HealthCare.gov rather than about the Republicans trying to take political advantage of those problems.)
And that's not surprising. The problem with this hearing is that the parties have the wrong incentives for it. Democrats have a policy interest in fixing HealthCare.gov's problems but a political interest in downplaying their severity. Republicans have a policy interest in seeing the problems fester — and in creating new ones — but a political interest in hyping them. The result is that the party that wants to talk about what's wrong with HealthCare.gov doesn't want to actually figure out how to fix it while the party that wants to fix it doesn't want to talk about it.
On the bright side, Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, did tell Michigan Republican Joe Barton that he "will not yield to this monkey court!" So at least that happened in Congress today.