House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, has invited former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to testify at a hearing before his committee on Sept. 9.
Issa is investigating potential violations of the Hatch Act, a law designed to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to fund political activities by government workers. Much of his investigation has focused on the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO), which was opened in January 2014. A previous iteration, the White House Office of Political Affairs, closed in January 2011 after the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) found it had violated laws.
OSC has concluded that the reopened office is complying with all Hatch Act restrictions.
Solis and Sebelius both allegedly carried out political acts while in office, though the allegations predate the creation of OPSO. Solis reportedly solicited a donation for President Obama's 2012 campaign from a subordinate at the agency (an investigation is ongoing), and Sebelius was found by OSC to have violated the law in 2012 when she endorsed a candidate for governor at an event that was not supposed to be political.
Earlier this summer, the White House informed Issa that OPSO Director David Simas would not appear before the committee to answer questions in spite of a subpoena, citing executive privilege.
"Neither this Administration's misguided belief that its advisors enjoy absolute immunity from testifying nor the minority's absolute opposition to oversight of this administration will deter us from continuing to ask questions, particularly when there have been known violations of law by cabinet members," Issa said in a statement.
The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, declined to sign onto the invitations to the two former cabinet secretaries, writing in a letter to Issa, "I strongly believe that the Committee's investigations should be conducted in a bipartisan manner...your actions throughout this investigation have not followed that standard."
Additionally, he noted that Issa's investigation has centered around the newly-reopened White House political office, but that Sebelius' and Solis' activities took place before it was established in 2014.
Issa had written to Cummings that he was going to invite the pair to testify because there is "evidence...[of] in appropriate activity or conduct that violates the Hatch Act," Issa wrote.