White House disagrees with 'stupidity' remarks

The White House on Thursday said it disagreed “vigorously” with comments made by Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the Affordable Care Act who said the bill was designed to take advantage of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

“I disagree vigorously with that assessment, I think is what I would say,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters when pressed on Gruber’s comments Thursday in Burma.

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The White House press secretary denied that the administration had obfuscated aspects of the law, saying officials and the president had spent significant time in multiple forums explaining how it would work. Instead, Earnest accused Republicans of looking to hide how they would tackle the issue of healthcare.

“It is Republicans who have been less than forthright and transparent about what their proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would do,” Earnest said.

The press secretary added that passing and implementing ObamaCare “is a very difficult undertaking, but ultimately this is a law that has had significant benefits for millions of people.”

Conservatives have seized on comments made by Gruber, an MIT economist who helped design both the Massachusetts and federal healthcare laws, in a series of academic lectures.

Gruber said the bill was a “tortured way to make sure the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes,” essentially acknowledging that Democrats spun the penalties associated with the individual mandate as a fine, rather than a tax, for political reasons.

“If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” Gruber said. “So it’s written to do that.”

Gruber went on to say the bill might also have lost political momentum if voters realized that in insurance plans, healthier individuals pay more to subsidize the sick, who cost more to insure.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber continued. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get anything to pass.”

A spokeswoman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized the remarks.

“If there was ever any doubt that ObamaCare was rammed through Congress with a heavy dose of arrogance, duplicity, and contempt for the will of the American people, recent comments made by one of the law’s chief architects, Jonathan Gruber, put that to rest,” said Katie Boyd in a statement.

And Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) suggested the House Oversight Committee could investigate the incident.

Gruber subsequently apologized for the comments.

“The comments in the video were made at an academic conference,” Gruber told MSNBC. “I was speaking off the cuff. I basically spoke inappropriately. I regret having made those comments.”