President Obama juggles a lot of things on his calendar, but meeting with Health and Human Services (or, HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is apparently not one of them. The calendar shows the President’s public meetings, and is published daily. It is part of an effort, which began in 2009, when Obama committed his administration to a policy of open government. The White House website says that publishing the comings and goings of the President and Vice President “is just one more way we’re opening up the White House.”
The Government Accountability Institute analyzed the daily White House calendar for President Obama, and the Politico calendar, published daily. The analysis dates back to the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law, March 23, 2010. Since then, 277 publicly scheduled meetings with cabinet secretaries have been held.
The Secretaries of Defense, State, and Treasury account for 95 percent of the face-to-face meetings Obama held. According to the report, nowhere in the schedules was a private, one-on-one meeting with Sebelius listed. She is included in a meeting with then-Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner. HHS has an instrumental role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pushed back against the allegations in a press conference on December 6. Carney said the report “is based on a ridiculously false premise…Cabinet Secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the visitors logs because they come frequently. And Kathleen Sebelius comes frequently, and she meets frequently with the President. ”
When asked about it again, Carney said that certain meetings are set, weekly occurrences, while other meetings are more fluid. “I think we endeavor to put as much as we know in advance, and as much as we can on the public schedule that we release the day before. We talk often about meetings that have happened that either are thrown on in the last minute,” Carney said.
He added that, “Obviously, there are some meetings that he has that are private, and we don’t put them on the public schedule for a variety of reasons,” and told reporters they could consult HHS for more information.