Updated 7:30 p.m. ET, 11/7/2013
Washington (CNN) – The top technology expert working to repair the bug-laden federal health care website is too busy to testify next week in front of a Republican-chaired House committee, the White House wrote in a letter to the committee Thursday.
Todd Park, the U.S. chief technology officer and an assistant to the president, is "currently occupied full time on the critically important work of improving the website for the millions of Americans seeking affordable health insurance options," the White House wrote in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa dated November 6, suggesting instead a date next month.
Issa’s panel, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was set to hear from Park next Wednesday, along with other technology experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Office of Management and Budget, who are working to repair HealthCare.gov.
“His testimony needs to be scheduled at a time that is less disruptive to that work,” wrote Donna Pignatelli, the White House’s assistant director for legislative affairs, who added later that “pulling him away…even for a short time at this stage would be highly disruptive and would risk slowing the progress that has been made thus far to fix identified issues with the website.”
The letter goes on to cite Issa’s statement, made during an October appearance on CBS, that he hopes the website is fixed “quickly.”
Pignatelli recommended instead an appearance during the first two weeks of December–after the administration-set deadline of November 30 to have the health website up and running.
But Issa responded with a letter urging Park to reconsider his decision, saying the committee may use its power to compel him testify he refuses to attend.
"Your role in the development and rollout of HealthCare.gov...uniquely positions you to provide testimony that will be valuable for both Congress and the public," Issa said in the letter. "Thus, your participation at the hearing is imperative."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the committee, said in a statement that Park offered to testify in early December and provide a briefing.
"But Chairman Issa’s letter completely ignores these offers and instead threatens a subpoena that would pull Mr. Park away from his critical role in improving the website," Cummings continued in the statement. "I am personally very concerned that the Chairman’s actions may have a direct and negative impact on efforts to fix healthcare.gov, which would aggravate the problem rather than help solve it.”