An economics professor who helped draft the Affordable Care Act has become a top target for Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike after he said the passage of the health care reform benefited from "stupid" voters. Jonathan Gruber served as an consultant to the White House on the legislation known as Obamacare and was the architect of its predecessor, the Massachusetts health care law signed by Mitt Romney.
"We may want to have hearings on this," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in an interview with the Washington Post. "We shouldn't be surprised they were misleading us." Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., meanwhile, said the comments could further complicate communication between the White House and Republicans in Congress. "The strategy was to hide the truth from the American people," Sessions said.
The White House has denounced Gruber's assertions that the Obama administration hid parts of the health care law to make it more popular with Americans. “The fact of the matter is, the process associated with the writing and passing and implementing of the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing, according to Politico.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined the chorus of Gruber detractors Thursday, saying that he did not help write the health care law and that she doesn't even "know who he is," according to the Washington Post. But Pelosi has cited his work in the past and mentioned him during debate in 2009 before the legislation's passage. "Our bill brings down rates," she said at the time. "I don't know if you have seen Jonathan Gruber of MIT's analysis of what the comparison is to the status quo versus what will happen in our bill for those who seek insurance within the exchange. And our bill takes down those costs, even some now, and much less preventing the upward spiral. So again, we're confident about what we set out to do in the bill: middle-class affordability, security for our seniors and accountability to our children."
Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill clarified: "She said she doesn’t 'know who he is,' not that she’s 'never heard of him.'"
A year-old video of Gruber discussing the Obamacare law during a panel at the University of Pennsylvania resurfaced on social media Monday, drawing ire from Republicans. The video shows Gruber discussing the "stupidity of the American voter" as fundamental to the passage of the 2010 health care law, according to the New York Times. He went on: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure” the Congressional Budget Office “did not score the mandate as taxes.” He said that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”
Gruber has since walked away from his comments, telling MSNBC's Ronan Farrow this week that they had been an “off-the-cuff” mistake. “The comments in the video were made at an academic conference,” Gruber said. “I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.”