A senior Republican House leader demanded Saturday that President Clinton fire the aide who headed the White House health care task force that was the subject of a scathing rebuke by a federal judge this month.
In a letter to Clinton, Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, also asked Clinton not to bill federal taxpayers for a $285,864 penalty that U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth imposed on the government for providing “dishonest” information to keep the task force, run by White House aide Ira Magaziner, away from public view.
“This type of conduct cannot be condoned, nor should it be rewarded through continued government employment,” wrote Archer, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “And while the court has held that the government must face the consequences, the taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill.”
Among his findings, Lamberth said Dec. 18 that the Clinton administration filed a false affidavit by Magaziner to buttress its argument that the task force, chaired by Hillary Clinton, should be shielded from public scrutiny.
“It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest levels of government, and the government itself is - and should be - accountable when its officials run amok,” Lamberth wrote.
A White House spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said the president would respond early in the week to Lamberth’s ruling and Archer’s call. The spokesman refused further comment except that “Mr. Magaziner has and will continue to perform as a valued member of the White House staff.”
In his decision, Lamberth ordered the government to pay $285,864 to help cover legal expenses of the Association of American Surgeons and Physicians, a doctors’ organization that had sued for records of the task force’s deliberations.
Archer, who helped kill the Clintons’ health care plan in the House, said the ruling “raises questions that touch on the heart of ethics, the proper conduct of government officials and the desire of the administration to keep information secret regarding important health care policies that the public has a right to know.”
At a Hanukkah celebration early this week, Clinton said he had not read Lamberth’s ruling and wanted to reserve comment. Relying on news accounts of the ruling, however, he said his first-blush inclination was to be “quite skeptical.”
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