Call to repeal Obamacare puts GOP, Dems on edge
WASHINGTON — Newly surfaced videos are adding fresh energy to the efforts of congressional conservatives to repeal President Obama’s health care law, feeding into their contentions that the overhaul was approved through deception.
Some are calling anew for hearings on the law, which is about to begin its second year of coverage for millions of Americans. And activists are telling lawmakers to make good on their talk of scrapping the law or face defeat in the next elections.
The videos show MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, an adviser in the law’s drafting, saying that “the stupidity of the American voter” helped Democrats pass the complex legislation.
“The Gruber clip has caught fire,” said David Bozell, whose ForAmerica group campaigns against the health care law online.
In one video, Gruber describes what he depicts as the behind-the-scenes political strategy of the law’s supporters. At a 2013 University of Pennsylvania public forum, he said Americans’ lack of understanding helped Democrats pass the legislation.
Other impolitic statements have continued to dribble out in which Gruber claims that the law was written to deceive federal budget watchdogs and mocks conservatives’ concerns over health care policy.
He since has disavowed the most controversial remarks, saying he “spoke inappropriately, and I regret having made those comments.”
Republicans, who made big gains in the Nov. 4 midterm congressional elections, have stood unified against the law that they deride as “Obama-care,” and they now point to Gruber’s comments as yet another reason to dump it. They say the remarks show a cynical strategy by Democrats to camouflage the law’s politically unpalatable aspects and sneak them past an unsuspecting public.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is among those calling for hearings, perhaps including Gruber as a witness.
“This is what we complained about when we fought it for all those months on the floor. Nobody understood it,” McCain said.
Another advocate for scrapping the law, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, branded the measure “just a bundle of deception.”
The videos have put Democrats on the defensive. Traveling with Obama in Asia this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the health law and said he would “disagree vigorously” with Gruber’s assessment. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., instrumental in the law’s passage, said she doesn’t know Gruber — despite having cited his analysis at least once in the past during an on-camera briefing with reporters.
“He didn’t help write our bill,” she said this week.
Both policy and politics are in play for the GOP. If congressional Republicans fail to push hard for repeal, they will face angry activists.
As the head of one influential conservative organization met with activists in Georgia this week, the mere mention of Gruber’s name drew jeers and brought people to their feet.
“It certainly has lit a fire among the grass roots,” said Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham. “All it does is confirms what everyone knows: I don’t think anyone in this country thought this law was passed without obfuscation.”