House passes Obamacare website security bill

By Deirdre Walsh

CNN Senior Congressional Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) — New year, same focus. The Republican led House of Representatives, in its first major action of the 2014 session, voted on another bill aimed at Obamacare – this one meant to fix what the GOP views as a serious security problem with the new health care website.

The House Friday passed a bill 291-122 to require the Administration to notify within two days anyone impacted by a security breach on, the website where Americans can enroll for insurance coverage.

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All House GOP members backed the measure and 67 Democrats crossed the aisle and voted for the bill.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Michigan, pointed to the revelation on Friday morning that 70 million people were hit by a data breach at Target, a top retail store. Upton said his committee heard from senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Service who “expressed serious concerns” about the security of the heath care website before they rolled it out in October.

Democrats countered that those concerns have been addressed, and the GOP bill wasn’t a serious effort to fix the law, but a move to discourage people from using the website to get health insurance.

“This is purely a message bill, that’s all we do these days,” California Democratic Rep Henry Waxman said, “this message is one that is designed to mislead.”

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Republicans said protecting American’s personal information was one issue that should get bipartisan support, and the bill simply requires the Administration to own up to any security problems.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for the White House to provide that information, but the lack of transparency surrounding the security of the Obamacare website has proven that’s the case,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement after the vote.

Aaron Albright, spokesman for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS,) told CNN, “to date, there have been no successful security attacks on and no person or group has maliciously accessed personally identifiable information from the site. Security testing is conducted on an ongoing basis using industry best practices to appropriately safeguard consumers’ personal information.”

But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, noted that an outside credit agency warned the website was vulnerable and asked, “why do we wait until there is a data breach?”

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New York Democratic Rep Joe Crowley argued the GOP had become “the shutdown party,” citing last fall’s government shutdown and arguing this latest Obamacare vote – one of over 40 in this session of Congress – was an attempt to shutdown the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In a tweak to the scandal involving Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and the deliberate shutdown of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, Crowley said, “heck they’re even shutting down bridges in New Jersey.”

The Obama Administration opposed the bill, and put out a statement on Thursday saying it would impose new burdens on the agencies charged with implementing the new health care law and potentially impede any investigation of any data breach.