Gruber: Sorry for Obamacare remarks
By Ashley Killough, CNN
updated 6:19 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
- Jonathan Gruber appeared before a House hearing on Tuesday
- Gruber said “My own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act”
Washington (CNN) — MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber apologized Tuesday for his “glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting comments” about Obamacare and the intelligence of American voters.
Gruber, who had tremendous influence in shaping the Affordable Care Act, came under fire last month after newly unearthed videos showed him suggesting that Democrats purposefully misled Americans while passing the President’s signature health care law.
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“I would like to begin by apologizing sincerely for the offending comments that I made,” he said in his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“I sincerely apologize both for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion,” Gruber added. “It is never appropriate to try to make oneself seem more important or smarter by demeaning others. I know better. I knew better. I am embarrassed, and I am sorry.”
Years-old but newly surfaced video show Gruber saying the legislation was drafted amd sold to the public in a way that masked the penalty for not getting health insurance, so that voters wouldn’t consider it a tax.
Calling the plan a “clever” and “basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber hailed how the measure passed “because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”
While Gruber has previously described himself as an “architect” of Obamacare, he sharply denied the label on Tuesday, arguing that his role in the legislation has been inflated in the past.
Still, he helped create the health care law in Massachusetts under then Gov. Mitt Romney, and went on to play a key role in crafting the idea behind the series of exchanges, subsidies and taxes that form the federal law’s centerpiece.
Both Democrats and Republicans hounded Gruber during the hearing.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa blasted his initial comments as an “insult” to voters, while ranking member Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, slammed Gruber’s remarks as “absolutely stupid” and “irresponsible.”
Cummings added that he was “extremely frustrated” because it “gave Republicans a public relations gift in their relentless political campaign to tear down the ACA.”
At one point, Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming referenced her recently deceased husband to issue a sharp warning to Gruber.
Her husband, she said, was having chest pains, but due to confusion over whether the couple was covered by Obamacare, he didn’t have all the tests the doctor recommended.
He died from a heart attack in his sleep Oct. 24.
“The so-called glibness that has been referenced today have direct consequences for real American people, so get over your damn glibness,” Lummis said.
While he regretted his initial comments, Gruber did not deny the substance of the arguments he was making about the legislation.
He also drew ire from lawmakers when he confirmed that he was paid nearly $ 400,000 for his work on the health care law but said he could not recall how much he received for other federal and state contracts — a sum estimated to be in the millions.
Issa and Republican members of the committee threatened to subpoena Gruber for that information. “It is very clear we’re going to have to do more discovery,” Issa said at the end of the hearing.
While Gruber conceded that he “behaved badly,” he defended the Affordable Care Act as a significant law that benefits the public. “My own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act.”