Lawmakers ask Jonathan Gruber, “Are you Stupid?”Posted by Mona Salama on December 10, 2014
MIT economist and consultant to the Obamacare law, Jonathan Gruber was hammered on Tuesday by the House Oversight committee for his remarks of “Stupidity of American Voters”.
The remarks made over a few years span were released just days after Election Day, which sparked a firestorm that gave the Republicans the advantage to beat up not only on Gruber, but to examine the failures and lack of transparency of Obamacare.
Also appearing on Capitol Hill was Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who Rep. Darrell Issa, the Chair of House Oversight accused of inflating enrollment numbers. Issa tied both Gruber and Tavenner together calling them “a perfect pairing, a pairing of individuals who are responsible for what we know and don’t know, before during and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.” However most of the hearing saw only members scolding Gruber with just a few questions being asked to Tavenner, mainly from Rep. Issa.
Gruber who helped develop the economic model for the Massachusetts health care plan under Governor Mitt Romney was sought to architect Obamacare at a national level. In the video, Gruber stated the bill was written to “make sure the CBO didn’t score mandate as taxes” and “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” He also said “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” These statements led to the House Oversight to investigation of the truth and impact of Obamacare
Tuesday’s hearing led by Rep. Issa featured a bipartisan beating to Gruber as he tried to minimize his role and continued to apologize for his remarks that he described as “glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting comments.”
Gruber repeatedly tried to explain his past comments, as “The comments I made were really inexcusable.” Continuing on, Gruber said “I behaved badly, and I will have to live with that, but my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act. The A.C.A. is a milestone accomplishment for our nation that already has provided millions of Americans with health insurance.”
Republicans sought to confront Gruber to disclose the total amount of works related to grants and contracts from the federal government. Refusing to disclose the other amount, Gruber confirmed he received $400,000 under contract with HHS. As numerous Republican members try to inquire the exact amount, Gruber declined and avoided the question by stating “You can take it up with my counsel.” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wasn’t accepting this answer, scolding Gruber, “So you’re not going to answer the question? You come to the committee, we ask a question, and you’re supposed to answer the question,” We wanna know how much you got from the taxpayers. Then you made fun of them after you got it from them.”
As Republican Representatives tore into Gruber on his remarks, Senior Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) tried to savage Gruber as best as he could, but joined in on the scolding for his comments that gave the Republicans the ammunition to belittle the administration as “absolutely stupid” and “incredibly disrespectful.” Worse, he continues, the statements gave Republicans “a political gift in their relentless campaign to tear down the ACA and eliminate health care for millions of Americans…great job, you wrapped it up with a bow.”
Gruber tried to accredit his comments and role in creating the ACA. “I’m a professor of economics at MIT. I’m not a politician nor a political advisor,” Gruber said, stressing that his role with the administration was purely technical. I was not the ‘architect’ of President Obama’s health care plan.” This led to Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) having enough of Gruber speaking about politics and became Gruber’s worst nightmare. “So you’re a professor at MIT and you’re worried about not looking smart enough?” Gowdy asked. Gruber replied, “yes” to which Gowdy fired back “Well, you succeeded if that was your goal,” Gowdy said.
The most moving moment of the hearing came from Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo). Her personal story about her late husband was a statement rather than of questioning neither Gruber nor Tavenner. “My husband had a massive heart attack in his sleep at age 65. A perfectly, by all accounts, healthy man. Come to find out, in a conversation with his physician after he died, he chose not to have one of the tests, the last tests, his doctor told him to have. This happened to coincide with the time that we were told that we were not covered by Obamacare. I’m not telling you that my husband died because of Obamacare. He died because he had a massive heart attack in his sleep.” She ended her statement “I want to suggest that regardless of what happened to me personally, that there have been so many glitches in the passage and implementation of Obamacare that have real-life consequences on peoples’ lives, ” she said, almost choking up. “The so-called glibness that has been referenced today has direct consequences for real American people. So get over your damn glibness.”
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