GOP goes after $2M federal Gruber grant

Republicans are asking the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to defend a multimillion dollar grant given to ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber in light of his controversial comments on the law's passage.

"Recent developments related to Dr. Gruber raise questions about his objectivity and judgment, and thus the utility of his research," Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) wrote in a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins Wednesday.

"Further, the award of this grant causes major concerns regarding NIH's funding priorities," they wrote.

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Pitts leads the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health, and Harris serves on the Appropriations Committee.

The letter stated that Gruber has received $1.5 million from the National Institute on Aging to study how seniors choose between plans in Medicare Part D. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is "on pace" to receive more than $2 million for the project, Republicans said.

Gruber is under fire for saying last year that a "lack of transparency" and the "stupidity of the American voter" aided the passage of the healthcare law. He has apologized, but remains a political punching bag for the right as more videos emerge.

Pitts and Harris asked Collins to describe how the NIH chose to fund Gruber's project, how the grant is being managed and how the NIH would go about rescinding the funding.

Some of the letter's language was highly charged.

"If NIH were to continue funding Dr. Gruber's grant, would you recommend that Congress and others utilize Dr. Gruber's study given his deplorable views on the intelligence of Americans?" the lawmakers wrote.

"If you do recommend utilizing it," they continued, "how would you justify that decision, especially to seniors who rely on Medicare Part D?"

Gruber's consulting fees have come under scrutiny as the controversy unfolds. Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules Paul blocks chemical safety bill in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) called this week for a probe into how much Gruber was paid to help with ObamaCare, with some outlets pegging the number at around $400,000.

Republicans in Congress are also entertaining hearings on the issue, though nothing has been scheduled yet.

The White House says none of its staff share Gruber's view of voters, and that the professor served in a narrow role consulting on the economics of healthcare reform.

“It wasn’t his responsibility to try to figure out how to get this bill through,” said Obama spokesman Josh Earnest on Tuesday.

“His expertise was focused on the economics of healthcare. This is the expertise he lent to Gov. [Mitt] Romney [in Massachusetts], and that was the role he played here."