Republicans Grill Obamacare Architect

Gruber apologized for controversial statements

Jonathan Gruber
Jonathan Gruber / AP
December 9, 2014

Dr. Jonathan Gruber, an MIT Professor and the oft-cited "architect" of Obamacare, apologized for controversial comments he made suggesting that the "stupidity of the American voter" and a lack of transparency were crucial in passing the president’s signature health care legislation, on Tuesday.

"In some cases I made uninformed and glib comments about the political process behind health care reform," Gruber said in his opening remarks before the House Oversight Committee. "I am not an expert on politics and my tone implied that I was which is wrong. In other cases I simply made insulting and mean comments that are totally uncalled for in any situation. I sincerely apologize both for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion. It is never appropriate to try to make oneself seem more important or smarter by demeaning others."

"I am embarrassed, and I am sorry."

While Gruber maintained that his comments were inappropriate and "glib," when explicitly asked by lawmakers if they were lies—Gruber said they were not.

"Did you lie about any of your comments… some of the aspects that we saw on television? Were those outright lies or were they just not politically pleasant?" asked Rep. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.).

"They were not lies," Gruber responded.

"Once again," Gruber said, "I was making statements about [a process], which I didn’t really have the expertise to make.

"I don’t know about that," Gosar said. "You’re very astute in regards to this. I mean being from M.I.T. that’s one of the most acclaimed environments in the world."

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) asked similar questions, pointing out that Gruber’s testimony before the committee contradicted years of previous remarks.

"Everything that has led up to your testimony today is inconsistent with your testimony today," Lummis said, "which is to say all of your prior statements were a lie. Is that true? Were all of your prior statements a lie or were they just glib?"

"They were not a lie," Gruber said.

Gruber’s past comments have caused a massive headache for the administration, and officials have tried to distance themselves from Gruber and his remarks

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified alongside Gruber to explain calculation errors in recent enrollment numbers.

The administration made a formal request last week asking the committee to let Tavenner testify on a separate panel, but the request was not honored.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) said the committee decided to seat Gruber and Tavenner together because both represent a lack of transparency, which Republicans say is a characteristic of the heath care law.

"[CMS] urged the committee not to seat him with the administrator next to him, and Dr. Gruber we think you’re right to be there," he said.

"In fact," Issa continued, "we believe that this is a perfect pairing. A pairing of individuals who are in fact responsible for what we know and don’t know, before, during, and after the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act."

Throughout his testimony, Gruber told the committee he was "not the ‘architect’ of President Obama’s health care plan," but Republicans were not buying it.

They pushed back on the idea by reading an excerpt from a biography provided in a book Gruber wrote, and quoted statements he made in speeches touting extensive involvement in crafting the legislation.

"If I said that," Gruber said, "that was once again an effort to seem more important than I was."

Gruber found no allies among Democrats, who condemned his statements as "absolutely stupid," inaccurate, and "insulting."

"They were especially harmful," said Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), "because they gave the opponents of the ACA a PR gift. Man, you did a great job. You wrapped it up with a bow."