One of the architects of ObamaCare is in the hot seat Tuesday as Republicans call him before Congress to explain his controversial statements boasting how the law’s authors took advantage of the “stupidity of the American voter.”
Jonathan Gruber’s appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also marks one of Rep. Darrell Issa’s last, high-profile shots at the health care law before he hands over his chairmanship next year.
Issa, R-Calif. — who has led the committee through controversial probes of the Benghazi attacks, the IRS scandal and more — will lead the questioning of former health adviser Gruber on Tuesday. Gruber, an MIT economist, recently apologized for saying Americans’ “stupidity” was vital to passing the health law in 2010.
Lawmakers also have obtained videos that show Gruber saying the act was written in a “very tortured way.”
Issa told Reuters the public deserves an explanation from Gruber. “If you can’t trust what he says, and what he says he’ll do, to get votes and trick the American people into voting for something, then can you trust his analytics?” Issa said of Gruber.
Like many congressional hearings, Tuesday’s session may provide partisan fireworks without much movement toward changing the law. The president says he will veto any effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, should such a bill reach his desk after Republicans add Senate control to their House majority next year.
Gruber has worked as a health care adviser in several states, including to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The federal government paid Gruber nearly $400,000 for his work.
Also testifying Tuesday will be Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In an effort to distance Tavenner from Gruber’s remarks, the administration asked Issa to put her on a different witness panel. Issa’s staff said it was weighing the request.
Issa calls the health care law “the poster child for this administration’s broken transparency promises.” Gruber recently said he “spoke inappropriately, and I regret having made those comments.”
The hearing comes as prominent Democrats debate the wisdom of devoting much of 2009 — Barack Obama’s first year as president — to the bruising battle for the health care legislation, which finally passed without a single Republican vote. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is among those Democrats now criticizing the timing. Top liberals are defending Obama, creating new divisions among Democrats right after major losses in this year’s elections.