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At Health Care Hearing, Republicans And Democrats Clash Again

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(Click here to jump to our latest updates — including a Democrat accusing Republicans of holding a "monkey court.")

Republicans in the House have framed the central question they want answered about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act this way, NPR's Ailsa Chang said Thursday on Morning Edition:

"Are White House officials clueless, or are they liars?"

Hearings about the problems with the federal government's new health insurance website — HealthCare.gov — begin Thursday morning at 9 a.m. ET when the House Energy & Commerce Committee hears from companies that designed the troubled sign-up site. The committee will webcast its session here.

As Ailsa reported, GOP lawmakers will be zeroing in on things the Obama administration said in the months leading up to the website's Oct. 1 launch. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, for instance, says he repeatedly asked the administration if the website was going to be ready. Burgess says officials told him not to worry.

So now, as Burgess says, "the obvious question comes up — were you purposely untruthful with me, or did you really believe this all was going to work and you just had no earthly idea that the system you devised was so flawed?"

Related: In a development that NPR's Julie Rovner previewed on Tuesday, the administration has said individuals without health insurance will have until March 31 to avoid a tax penalty by signing up for coverage. Previously, it appeared that the last date to sign up and avoid a penalty was Feb. 15.

Update at 12:05 p.m. ET. Some Of The Headlines So Far:

-- "Contractors tell House panel they did not have enough time to test health-insurance Web site." (The Washington Post)

-- "Contractors Point Fingers Over Health-Law Website." (The Wall Street Journal)

-- "Bipartisan Dismay Over Health Plan Woes at Hearing." (The New York Times)

-- "Partisan attacks dominate ObamaCare rollout hearing." (The Hill)

-- "Contractors grilled on the Hill." (Politico)

Update at 11 a.m. ET. This Is A "Monkey Court," Democrat Says:

As expected, Republicans have spent the first hour of the hearing talking about mismanagement and mistakes. Minutes ago, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey angrily accused his GOP colleagues of conducting a "monkey court" and of misleading Americans about the Affordable Care Act.

Twitter, not surprisingly, is already beginning to light up with references to #MonkeyCourt. There's also already an @USMonkeyCourt account.

We'll embed the audio of Pallone's outburst, including his refusal to yield to a GOP colleague.

Update at 9:15 a.m. ET. Webcast:

Now that the hearing has begun, we've embedded the committee's webcast at the top of this post.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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