WASHINGTON – On the hot seat for admitting that Obamacare would not have passed if the American people knew what was in the bill, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber insisted to a House panel Tuesday that he is not a politician and apologized for making “inexcusable” comments in which he “conjectured” beyond his “area of expertise.”
“I apologize sincerely for the unfortunately glib and insulting comments I made,” he stated. “I knew better, and I know better.”
House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa, R-Calif., began the hearing accusing Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health and Human Services, of intentionally withholding from Congress subpoenaed documents.
Issa claimed the documents would prove HHS provided misleading statistics regarding the number of enrollees to Medicare under Obamacare.
Issa played for the committee a video clip of one of many statements Gruber made claiming the Obama administration had to deceive the American public to get Obamacare passed.
Issa further claimed pairing Tavenner and Gruber on the witness stand was appropriate, because both worked at the highest levels of the Obama administration to craft strategies to get Obamacare passed without regard for honesty.
In the first video, Gruber confessed the bill “was written in a tortured way” to make sure the Congressional Budget Office “did not score the mandate as taxes.”
“If the CBO scores the mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” Gruber said.
He continued to discuss the lack of transparency, which was a “huge political advantage.”
“Basically you know call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass,” he said.
Issa began his questioning of Gruber asking: “Are you stupid?”
“No,” Gruber replied.
Issa then asked: “Does MIT employ stupid people?”
“No,” said Gruber.
Issa then said: “You said you had to deceive the American people to get the Obamacare passed.
“If you deceived American people then, how do we know you are not deceiving the American people now, especially in light of your being paid in excess of $4 million for your analysis?” he asked.
Gruber refused to answer the question directly.
“I think the quality of the modeling I did should not be brought into question by comments I made,” he said.
The ranking member of the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., focused on the political implications of Gruber’s frank admissions.
“I’ve got to tell you, your comments were insulting,” Cummings said. “You wrapped it up with a bow giving ammunition to the critics of the Affordable Care Act.”
Gruber responded: “I made a series of inexcusable and offensive comments for which I apologize, but my flaws as a private citizen should not be used to detract from the success of the Affordable Control Act.”
Under intense questioning by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Gruber at first refused to say how much he had been paid by the government for his work on Obamacare and then claimed he did not recall.
At first, Gruber said the committee would have to talk to his lawyer about the subject.
Issa then informed Gruber, since his attorney was not available to attend Tuesday’s hearing, the MIT professor would have to return with his lawyer for further questioning.
Issa advised Gruber he had nothing to gain by not answering.
See Gruber respond to Rep. Jim Jordan:
Jordan then reiterated his question, asking how much Gruber got from taxpayers after making fun of them.
That’s when Gruber insisted he did not recall how much money he had received from the federal government for his work on Obamacare.
Under questioning by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Gruber refused to provide any documents regarding the work he had done for the government on Obamacare, referring the congressman to his attorney.
An incensed Chaffetz replied: “I need a yes or no. I am not interested in talking to your counsel. Will you or will you not provide that information?”
See questioning by Rep. Jason Chaffetz:
When Gruber said he would first have to speak with his attorney, committee members discussed the possibility of subpoenaing the documents.
An indignant Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked Gruber if he apologized “because you said it or because you meant it?”
Gruber insisted he didn’t mean it when he called the American people “stupid.”
Gowdy replied: “Really? All these quotes?”
Gruber softly said the comments were glib and thoughtless, as he had said many times during the hearing.
Gowdy responded that Gruber had made so many disparaging statements toward the public that it undercut the notion his apology was sincere.
“Do you see why your apology may seem disingenuous?” asked the congressman rhetorically.