TIME 2014 Election

Poll: Support for Campaign Finance Reform Strong in Key Senate Races

A new survey out Thursday suggests candidates with bold proposals to reform the way elections are funded in the U.S. could have an advantage

Focusing on campaign finance reform could be a winning strategy for candidates in Senate battleground states, according to a new poll out Thursday from the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps.

“Voters will reward those candidates who lead on cleaning up the problem, not those who complain about it,” lead pollster Stan Greenberg told reporters Thursday.

According to the survey, a majority of likely voters among Democrats (75%), Independents (64%) and Republicans (54%) see the wave of spending by Super PACs this election cycle as “wrong and leads to our elected officials representing the views of wealthy donors.” So far in the 2014 election cycle, Super PACs, which are not obligated to disclose donor lists, have spent $87.5 million and counting to influence election outcomes. Though Super PACs are significantly more favorable to Republicans than Democrats, both sides benefit from the influx of cash to the tune of $43.4 million for conservatives and $41.9 million for liberals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Poll respondents were likely voters in 12 states with hotly contested Senate races selected from among people who voted in earlier off-year elections in 2006 and 2010.

The poll suggests that supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse recent Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United that eliminated some limits and transparency requirements on campaign donations could be an effective campaign tack in 2014. Overall, 37% of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported such an amendment, including 43% of Independents. Likely voters in all 12 states overwhelmingly support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, 73% to 24%, according to the poll.

The survey results bode well for groups that have vowed to make big money in politics a central issue in the 2014 elections, including Kentucky spoof candidate Gil Fulbright and the Mayday Super PAC, which has raised nearly $8 million to spend backing pro-reform candidates in five key races around the country.

TIME Unions

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds 2011 Union Law

(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence.

The 5-2 ruling upholding the law in its entirety is a victory for Walker, who is considering a 2016 run for president and is seeking re-election this year. It also marks the end of the three-year legal fight over the union rights law, which prohibits public worker unions for collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeals court twice upheld the law as constitutional.

“No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation,” Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.

The high court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers. They had argued that the law, which came to be known as Act 10, violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.

Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011, a move that was met with fierce resistance from teachers, other public workers and their supporters who flooded the Capitol for weeks in an effort to block the bill’s passage. Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage.

The law bars automatic withdrawals from members’ paychecks and requires annual elections to see if members want their unions to go on representing them. It also requires public employees to contribute more toward their health insurance and pension costs, moves that Walker said helped local governments and schools save enough money to deal with other cuts done to balance a state budget shortfall.

Walker’s opponent for re-election, Democrat Mary Burke, supports the higher pension and health insurance contributions. But while she supports restoring collective bargaining, Burke has not promised to work for the repeal of Act 10 if elected.

Walker was forced to stand for recall in 2012, a move largely motivated out of anger over the union law. He won, becoming the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.

The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but it’s withstood them all.

The state Supreme Court decided to take the case it ruled on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portions of the law were unconstitutional.

Gableman, who wrote the opinion, is part of the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the court’s two most liberal members, dissented. They argued the law unconstitutionally infringes on protected rights.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 31

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: House OKs Boehner lawsuit; Israeli Prime Minister vows to keep pummeling tunnels; how third party candidates could impact 2014 elections; and this week's TIME

  • House grants Boehner the authority to sue Obama [TIME]
  • Meanwhile in Kansas City … : “We could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit,” Obama said. “Stop being mad all the time. Stop just hating all the time. Let’s get some work done together.” [Politico]
  • “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing international alarm over a rising civilian death toll in Gaza, said on Thursday he would not accept any ceasefire that stopped Israel completing the destruction of militants’ infiltration tunnel” [Reuters]
  • Argentina default imminent as talks collapse [WSJ]
  • Third Party candidates could disrupt 2014 Midterms [TIME]
  • U.S. Attorney warms Cuomo on ethics case [NYT]
  • General to question Bergdahl about disappearance [USA Today]
  • GOP: Lerner emails show bias against conservatives [AP]
  • ICYMI: “Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a scandal involving that agency’s targeting of conservative groups, called Republicans “crazies” and “assholes,” according to emails released Wednesday.” [TIME]
  • GAO report details flaws behind $840 million Obamacare website rollout [The Hill]
  • Can the GOP take the Senate? [The New Yorker]
  • The parallel failures of Obama’s and Bush’s foreign policy doctrines [National Journal]

What’s Prettier in Print:

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, August 1, at 1 p.m., with TIME foreign correspondent Simon Shuster, who has been covering the conflict in Ukraine. You can read his work here, his recent feature about being arrested by Ukrainian separatists here and his cover story on Russian President Vladimir Putin here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q&A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

TIME Congress

Eric Cantor and John Boehner: The Bromance Is Over

As told through the lyrics of Alan Jackson's "Remember When"

On Thursday, Congressman Eric Cantor will step down from his post as House majority leader, following his shocking primary defeat in June, thus ending his Capitol Hill bromance with House Speaker John Boehner — a relationship that captivated so many hearts across the nation.

When Cantor first assumed the role of HML in 2011, some speculated that the up-and-comer was angling for Boehner’s job, but the GOP’s two top dogs were not to be defined by acrimony — after all, what good romance doesn’t begin with a little tension? (Have you seen The Notebook?)

Here, we’ve assembled a scrapbook that illustrates the bromance heard round the Beltway, each photo captioned with a lyric from Alan Jackson’s “Remember When,” because obviously. It is highly advisable to play the song as you click through the photos.

TIME justice

Exclusive: Attorney General Eric Holder to Oppose Data-Driven Sentencing

US-JUSTICE-RIGHTS-HOLDER
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at Howard University in Washington on July 15, 2014 Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Statistics can predict criminal risk. Can they deliver equal justice?

Citing concerns about equal justice in sentencing, Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to oppose certain statistical tools used in determining jail time, putting the Obama Administration at odds with a popular and increasingly effective method for managing prison populations. Holder laid out his position in an interview with TIME on Tuesday and will call for a review of the issue in his annual report to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Thursday, Justice department officials familiar with the report say.

Over the past 10 years, states have increasingly used large databases of information about criminals to identify dozens of risk factors associated with those who continue to commit crimes, like prior convictions, hostility to law enforcement and substance abuse. Those factors are then weighted and used to rank criminals as being a high, medium or low risk to offend again. Judges, corrections officials and parole officers in turn use those rankings to help determine how long a convict should spend in jail.

Holder says if such rankings are used broadly, they could have a disparate and adverse impact on the poor, on socially disadvantaged offenders, and on minorities. “I’m really concerned that this could lead us back to a place we don’t want to go,” Holder said on Tuesday.

Virtually every state has used such risk assessments to varying degrees over the past decade, and many have made them mandatory for sentencing and corrections as a way to reduce soaring prison populations, cut recidivism and save money. But the federal government has yet to require them for the more than 200,000 inmates in its prisons. Bipartisan legislation requiring risk assessments is moving through Congress and appears likely to reach the President’s desk for signature later this year.

Using background information like educational levels and employment history in the sentencing phase of a trial, Holder told TIME, will benefit “those on the white collar side who may have advanced degrees and who may have done greater societal harm — if you pull back a little bit — than somebody who has not completed a master’s degree, doesn’t have a law degree, is not a doctor.”

Holder says using static factors from a criminal’s background could perpetuate racial bias in a system that already delivers 20% longer sentences for young black men than for other offenders. Holder supports assessments that are based on behavioral risk factors that inmates can amend, like drug addiction or negative attitudes about the law. And he supports in-prison programs — or back-end assessments — as long as all convicts, including high-risk ones, get the chance to reduce their prison time.

But supporters of the broad use of data in criminal-justice reform — and there are many — say Holder’s approach won’t work. “If you wait until the back end, it becomes exponentially harder to solve the problem,” says former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram, who is now at the nonprofit Laura and John Arnold Foundation, where she is building risk-assessment tools for law enforcement. For example, prior convictions and the age of first arrest are among the most power­ful risk factors for reoffending and should be used to help accurately determine appropriate prison time, experts say.

And data-driven risk assessments are just part of the overall process of determining the lengths of time convicts spend in prison, supporters argue. Professor Edward Latessa, who consulted for Congress on the pending federal legislation and has produced broad studies showing the effectiveness of risk assessment in corrections, says concerns about disparity are overblown. “Bernie Madoff may score low risk, but we’re never letting him out,” Latessa says.

Another reason Holder may have a hard time persuading states of his concerns is that data-driven corrections have been good for the bottom line. Arkansas’s 2011 Public Safety Improvement Act, which requires risk assessments in corrections, is projected to help save the state $875 million through 2020, while similar reforms in Kentucky are projected to save it $422 million over 10 years, according to the Pew Center on the States. Rhode Island has seen its prison population drop 19% in the past five years, thanks in part to risk-assessment programs, according to the state’s director of corrections, A.T. Wall.

The spread of data analysis in criminal justice is a relatively new phenomenon: not long ago, reckoning a criminal’s debt to society was the work of men. For much of the 20th century judges, parole boards and probation officers made subjective decisions about when and whether a criminal was ready to return to society. Then in the 1970s and ’80s, as lawmakers sought to eradicate racial bias and accommodate victims’ rights, jail terms increasingly became a matter of a fixed formula set by law in a process that boiled down to the adage, “Do the crime, do the time.”

The result was a huge surge in prison populations, jail for low-risk offenders and often freedom for unrehabilitated inmates. The number of U.S. prisoners has risen 500% since 1980, to more than 2.2 million in 2012; 95% of them will be released at some point. Evidence collected everywhere from conservative Texas to liberal Vermont shows that statistical analysis used to rank prisoners according to their risk of recidivism can reduce prison populations and reduce repeat offending.

Holder says he wants to ensure the bills that are moving through Congress account for potential social, economic and racial disparities in sentencing. “Our hope would be to work with any of the Senators or Congressmen who are involved and who have introduced bills here so that we get to a place we ought to be,” Holder said.

With reporting by Tessa Berenson and Maya Rhodan / Washington

TIME Congress

House Grants Boehner Authority to Sue Obama

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on June 19, 2014 Kevin Dietsch—UPI/Landov

The measure passed 225 to 201 on the backs of House Republicans

The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday granting House Speaker John Boehner the authority to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time the legislative branch has endorsed such a lawsuit.

The measure, which passed 225 to 201 without a single Democrat “yea,” underscores the burning frustration of House Republicans, who believe that the President has failed to execute the law properly on a number of measures. Boehner has said that the lawsuit will focus on the President’s decision to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, which Republicans oppose. That July 2013 decision gave companies with at least 50 full-time employees an extra year — until 2015 — to provide health insurance or pay a fine. Earlier this year, the Administration delayed the mandate again, until 2016, for companies employing between 50 and 99 workers.

“I oppose the employer mandate in the president’s health care law,” Boehner wrote in a USA Today op-ed published this week. “The House of Representatives has voted to delay or eliminate it (and we will do so again if we prevail in court). But it is the letter of the law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. He simply cannot unilaterally rewrite it.”

Democrats are furious at the lawsuit and have called it a political stunt.

“This is the least productive Congress in decades,” wrote White House Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer in an email to supporters. “And instead of doing their job, they are suing the President for doing his.”

“This resolution is a waste of time and money,” Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, said on the House floor Wednesday. “Today, Mr. Speaker, we’ve reached a low, a very low point. This resolution to sue the President just goes a little too far. It is a shame and a disgrace that we’re here debating the suing of the President.”

The House will have a difficult time winning the lawsuit. In a letter to the House Rules Committee two weeks ago, Harvard constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe wrote that the House “cannot plausibly allege, much less demonstrate, any distinctive injury to itself or its members.” He called the activity a “wholly meritless attempt to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.”

“We’ll find out” whether or not the House has legal standing,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican.

“I would tell you that on many occasions, this President has overstepped his authority,” Diaz-Balart told TIME. “Now whether that gives us standing to sue is the big question. But we won’t know until we try.”

— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

TIME Congress

House Approves VA Health Care Overhaul

Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald of Ohio is sworn in during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings to examine his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 22, 2014.
Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald of Ohio is sworn in during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings to examine his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 22, 2014. AP

(WASHINGTON) — The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to refurbish the Veterans Affairs Department and improve veterans’ health care.

The 420-5 vote sends the bill to the Senate, where approval is expected by Friday.

The $16.3 billion measure is intended help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them and make firing senior executives at the VA easier.

The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff and about $1.3 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

The House vote came one day after the Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the sprawling agency, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans and disability compensation to nearly 4 million veterans.

McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing uproar over reports of long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. He said improving patient access to health care was a top priority, along with restoring transparency, accountability and integrity to the VA.

Congressional budget analysts estimated the bill would cost about $16.3 billion over three years, slightly less than a $17 billion estimate provided by the bill’s sponsors.

The bill is expected to add $10 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years after cost-savings such as changes in a veterans’ retirement program and reimbursements by insurance companies are included, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the reform bill was urgently needed in the wake of what he called “the biggest scandal in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

While the bill’s cost is steep, it is needed to ensure that veterans receive proper care, Miller said.

“The VA has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice, a choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system” to get government-paid health care from a private doctor, he said.

“No veteran should be forced to wait for the health care or benefits they have earned,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., adding that the bipartisan bill “will help us serve our veterans as well as they have served us.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said he was concerned about a provision in the bill that makes it easier to fire senior executives judged to be negligent or underperforming. Hoyer, whose suburban Washington district includes thousands of government workers, said the bill “undermines civil service protections that have been in place for decades.”

Existing protections “strike the right balance between giving agencies the authority to remove personnel without trampling on the due process rights of (senior) employees that they need to do their job without fear of political reprisal or arbitrary removal,” Hoyer said.

The VA has been rocked in recent months by reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. In many cases, high-ranking officials received bonuses for meeting performance goals that later proved to be based on false information.

The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.

The proposed restrictions are important in controlling costs for the program. Congressional budget analysts had projected that tens of thousands of veterans who currently are not treated by the VA would likely seek VA care if they could see a private doctor paid for by the government.

TIME 2014 elections

Third-Party Candidates Could Disrupt 2014 Midterms

Sean Haugh Libertarian Candidate From US Senate From North Carolina
Libertarian Sean Haugh, is running for the US Senate from North Carolina seen here in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 2, 2014. Rachel Mills—The Washington Post&/Getty Images

Most are right-leaning, potentially threatening GOP bid for control of the Senate

For most of modern era, third-party candidates were the crazy uncles of U.S. Senate elections, fun to watch and almost never relevant. In the 1990s and 2000s combined, only six Senate races were impacted by third party candidates. That is now changing. In the past four years alone, the outcomes of four Senate races have been impacted by outsiders, and this year is lining up to deliver more disruption.

10 of the 12 Senate seats in play this cycle have drawn third-party challengers, and nine of those races have Libertarian Party candidates—some of them more than one—who are likely to draw votes from Republicans. That’s bad news for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is hoping to win six seats and control of the Senate, but first may have to contend with a Libertarian challenger coming after his own seat—if he succeeds in getting on the ballot.

Much of the shift has risen from the conservative backlash against Republican incumbents. While many establishment candidates have beat back Tea Party primary challenges this cycle, activists are increasingly deciding to try to organize outside the party structure. These third-party bids have little chance of success, but they can easily spoil a close race by drawing away a few percentage points from mainstream Republicans or Democrats. For the embattled GOP establishment, it’s yet another reminder that the Tea Party isn’t going away and won’t be ignored.

In the razor-thin race for the retiring Saxby Chambliss’s seat in Georgia, outside candidates such as Libertarian Amanda Swafford, a paralegal and former city councilwoman, have drawn up to 7% of the vote in early polls. Swafford is Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn’s not-so-secret weapon: Republican David Perdue currently leads Nunn by 3.2% in a Real Clear Politics average of Georgia polls.

Likewise, Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the most vulnerable Democrats up this cycle, must be happy to have Libertarian Sean Haugh on the ballot. Haugh, a pizza deliveryman, has rated in the high single digits in early North Carolina polls, far more than the percentage of voters that divides the major party candidates there.

In most cases, third party candidates will likely have little impact on the midterms, like in the West Virginia race to fill retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s seat, where Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito leads West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant by a commanding 9.3 percent, according a Real Clear Politics average, despite the presence of both a Libertarian and a Tea Party candidate in the race. And the majority of third party candidates vying for the 21 House seats in play this cycle are perennial campaigners, like Mike the Mover in Washington’s First District, who runs as a business advertisement. Experts expect only a handful of those races will be substantially affected by also-rans.

Still, with Senate control on a razor’s edge, every vote counts. And with voters hating Washington now more than ever, non-mainstream candidates are more than likely to leech away support. The anger at both major parties might even delay the outcome of this year’s election. In Louisiana, four other candidates look likely to deprive Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu or her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy of an outright win of 50% of the vote, thereby forcing a runoff to be scheduled for Dec. 7. If control of the Senate hangs on this race, the nation will have to wait until next year to find out who controls Congress.

TIME Health Care

Report: Cost of HealthCare.Gov Approaching $1 Billion

Marketplace guide Jim Prim works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website as he helps a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at an enrollment event in Milford, Delaware on March 27, 2014.
Marketplace guide Jim Prim works on the Healthcare.gov federal enrollment website as he helps a resident sign up for a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act at an enrollment event in Milford, Delaware on March 27, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

GAO Report places cost overrun blame squarely on the shoulders of the federal government

Correction appended July 30, 9:22 p.m. ET

Federal officials badly managed the development of a website to sell health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, potentially costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, according to testimony that will be delivered to a House subcommittee on Thursday.

In prepared remarks posted online Wednesday, William T. Woods, an official at the General Accounting Office, says HealthCare.gov, a federal website charged with managing new individual health plans for consumers in 36 states, was marred by inadequate oversight by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an HHS agency in charge of the insurance website, “undertook the development of HealthCare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices, despite facing a number of challenges that increased both the level of risk and the need for effective oversight,” according to Woods.

Details of Woods’ testimony were first reported by the Associated Press. The GAO conducted its investigation of HealthCare.gov at the request of the Investigations and Oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As became obvious in the days and weeks after HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1, 2013, the website was hobbled by technical problems and software glitches that prevented consumers from signing up for health plans until a repair effort was undertaken months later. The episode was a significant embarrassment for the Obama Administration, which had promised buying health plans through the website would be akin to purchasing any other goods or services on the Internet. Contractors charged with building HealthCare.gov and a data hub meant to verify identities, eligibility and income used to calculate federal subsidies had not completed their work by the time the site launched, according to Woods’ testimony. But the GAO placed blame on federal officials for not anticipating problems that would occur and for incurring significant cost increases as well as improperly approving additional spending.

According to Woods’ testimony, the cost of building one part of HealthCare.gov increased from $56 million to more than $209 million between September 2011 and February 2014. Expenses for the associated data hub ballooned from $30 million to $85 million. Woods says that by March 2014, CMS reported “obligating $840 million for the development of HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems.”

Federal officials, according to Woods, delayed assessing whether HealthCare.gov was ready for launch from March 2013 to September 2013, noting that this was just weeks before the site went live. Software experts have said in the months since HealthCare.gov launched and crashed that such a short window is far too narrow to evaluate a brand new, complex system like a new national website to sell health insurance and dole out federal subsidies to those who qualify.

As it became clear that the building of HealthCare.gov was not going smoothly, Woods says federal officials approved additional expenditures to contractors, including CGI Federal, the lead company hired to build the website. The GAO, he says, found approximately 40 instances in which CMS employees approved additional spending totaling $30 million.

“This is not to say the work was not necessary,” says Woods, “however, the work was not approved properly.”

As HealthCare.gov’s launch approached and CMS officials had the chance to withhold major funds from contractors, they chose not to. To save HealthCare.gov after its failed launch, HHS hired the firm Accenture to continue work on the website. But that contract, too, has cost far more than planned. According to Woods’ testimony, the $91 million contract awarded to Accenture in January 2014 increased to $175 million by June 5.

Eventually, HealthCare.gov was repaired and some 8 million Americans signed up for health plans through the federal website and 14 others run by individual states by the spring of 2014.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described how 8 million people signed up for new health care plans following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. They used the exchange created by the federal government, Healthcare.Gov, and 14 exchanges run by the individual states.

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