MIT economist Jonathan Gruber - an adviser on the president's health care law - told Congress on Tuesday he was glib and "inexcusably arrogant" when he said it was "the stupidity of the American voter" that led to the law's passage. Democrats tried to limit the damage as the GOP raked Gruber at a four-hour hearing, but they acknowledged he has given Republicans a political gift "wrapped in a bow."
Gruber told groups in 2012 and 2013 that voter stupidity and a "lack of transparency" were important to passing the legislation without any GOP support. Appearing before the House Oversight committee, Gruber expanded on earlier apologies, repeatedly saying "I was conjecturing in areas beyond my expertise."
Gruber said his comments were uninformed, "glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting." He said he used exaggerated expertise "to try to make myself look smarter." He said the law's passage was transparent and heavily debated in public, despite his earlier comments. And Gruber said he was not the "architect" of the law.
But Republican Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California called Gruber a crucial player in the legislation as he opened the latest hearing into what he calls "Obamacare." He and other Republicans sarcastically praised Gruber for "telling the truth" in his earlier remarks, while also hammering his testimony Tuesday and demanding details of how much state and federal governments paid him for consulting on his models for health care costs."
Democrats tried to make the most of having an often-vilified witness retracting some of his most damaging remarks. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, glared at Gruber and called his remarks from 2012 and 2013 "absolutely stupid" and "incredibly disrespectful."
- Scott Horsley, White House correspondent for NPR.
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