GAO’s work to examine the deployment of federal programs and agencies toward political ends—and how it comes about—has come across what seems to be yet another example of agency capture.
Whenever an initiative quashed by a previous administration gets revived once those who killed it are no longer around to supervise, it warrants transparency. Ditto when agencies appear to single out parties for disparate treatment. When this represents a reversal of a pre-election position, scrutiny is most definitely in order.
Correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows White House coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This carries the odor of politics, and possibly even retribution, on behalf of the new political administration’s political wants/needs. Specifically, emails suggest Biden’s CMS targeted Medicaid programs for new interpretations of the law, which, as a practical matter, would pressure states to increase property, sales, and/or income taxes. This not only represents a policy reversal but a selective one. CMS is focusing on “red states”—ones that have been particular thorns in the Biden administration’s side, no less: Florida (surprise!), Missouri, and Texas—while neglecting to apply the same standards to blue states.
Also among the emails are suggestions of a tie-in to rolling out [REDACTED] matters “the week after SOTU” (standing for the State of the Union speech).
Two days after SOTU, Biden went to Florida to decry “outrageous” views on safety net programs. This seems somewhat dissonant, although politics can be funny, and politicking does seem to offer the explanation.
Emails over the course of the next week show the game plan of “focused review(s)” unfolding. The focus on Florida is particularly noteworthy given how these machinations fit into the chronology and various developments in the, shall we say, broader political realm. As GAO pieces together the more illustrative exemplars, and extracts further document productions which will be posted as updates on a rolling basis, you can read the record productions suggesting what is going on here, here and here.
UPDATE II: And here.
UPDATE IV: Most (97%, more than usual) records in a January 22, 2024 production were referred to the White House for consultation…