Partisan fighting over Obamacare at a congressional hearing Tuesday grew so fierce at times that the administration's Medicare chief was often left to watch the drama rather than give testimony.
Rep. Sander Levin's opening statement set the tone for the House Ways and Means hearing with Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Democrats want to make the Affordable Care Act work. Congressional Republicans don't," said Levin, D-Mich.
Arguments were taken to extremes on both ends, with Democrats fiercely defending the health care reform and Republicans attacking its problem-plagued website as representative of larger troubles with the law.
"While the website can eventually be fixed, the widespread problems with Obamacare cannot," said Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich.
Republican members of the committee focused on premium costs, enrollment numbers, and those who have had their existing insurance plans canceled. Costs were discussed as much as the problematic website launch. Democrats defended the law, citing the importance of affordable, high-quality health care.
"I happen to believe that health care is a right and not a privilege, that it's not just for the fortunate few but all citizens of America," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. "There has been a deliberate and systematic attempt on the part of the majority in the House and the minority in the Senate to make it impossible for all Americans to receive quality health care. And some of us will not stand for it."
With allotted time repeatedly running out, and lawmakers pontificating rather than allowing Tavenner to speak, there was little back and forth on the website launch, contractors, or testing.
That may mean that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will have more to answer when she faces Congress on Wednesday.