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Ellison’s Must Read of the day

• December 10, 2014 9:59 am

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My must read of the day is "Gruber Survives," by David Nather, in Politico:

Jonathan Gruber spent his day getting battered and humiliated by Darrell Issa Tuesday — but Issa never did manage to land the knockout punch.

Gruber, an economist and health care adviser, apologized for his infamous "stupid voters" riff about Obamacare, got scolded by one committee member after another, said he wasn’t really the "architect" of Obamacare and even came away facing a subpoena threat.

Still, Tuesday’s House hearing never forced Gruber to admit what Republicans wanted to prove: that he was speaking from inside knowledge of the writing of the Affordable Care Act, and therefore had confirmed that Obamacare was a fraud all along.

And as much as the Republicans grilled him, Gruber never budged from his story, whether they wanted to believe it or not: He ran numbers for Obamacare, didn’t really know the political strategies he talked about so freely, and did not, in fact, confirm the premise of a lawsuit over subsidies that could give the Supreme Court a new opportunity to unravel the health care law next year.

Republican were not easy on Gruber at yesterday's hearing. They peppered him with questions and didn’t let up when he offered the same answer. They asked him to explicitly state how much money—from state and federal governments—he received as consultant on the Affordable Care Act. When he deferred to his counsel, Republicans accused him of not being cooperative. Despite that, Gruber stuck to his points repeating that he spoke outside of his area of expertise, he regrets the comments, and the comments were "glib."

In the nearly four-hour hearing, there was little in Gruber’s testimony that made his or the administration’s situation any worse. Gruber has given the administration a major headache, and he’s given Republicans what Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) appropriately called a "PR gift."

Republicans asked nearly everything they could, but Gruber was uncompromising. There were, however, a couple of moments where I thought Republicans failed to ask a logical second question.

Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio.) asked Gruber about his comment that the law was drafted in a "tortured way" so that CBO would not score the individual mandate as a tax.

"Did you ever speak to anyone in the administration who acknowledged that to you or explained that to you … Did anybody in the administration have that conversation with you?" Turner asked.

"That was an inexcusable term," Gruber said before Turner cut him off.

"I’m not asking you about how you believe whether or not you should have said that or not. It’s a factual statement you’re making," Turner said.

"Did anybody in the administration ever have that conversation with you?"

"I do not recall anyone using the word tortured, no," Gruber said.

Turner pressed it again, asking the same question: did anyone in the administration "acknowledge it, explain it, or assign aspects to you within that construct."

Again, Gruber said he did not recall.

Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) started on a similar path and the first thing he asked Gruber was about his preparation.

"You have prepared for your testimony this morning with your counsel, is that correct?" asked Meadows.

"Yes," Gruber replied.

He then asked Gruber how long it took to prepare to give "an honest and transparent answer," before moving on to discussing specification about Gruber’s economic model.

Combine those two series of questions. Gruber said his counsel prepped him for Tuesday’s testimony, and he suggested he had not discussed some of his controversial statements with anyone in the administration. He was under oath, I would assume that’s true—the problem is Republicans left their questions there.

It seems to me that the obvious next question they should have gotten to is, "Did your counsel speak with anyone in the administration, at any point in time, about this testimony or your comments in general?"

Who knows what the answer would be. Would it have revealed anything explosive? Maybe not, but it seems like a moment where the questions weren’t thought through and Republicans missed any opportunity to get a more complete answer out of Gruber.

Published under: Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare