GOP doubles down on ‘stupidity’ gaffe

GOP doubles down on ‘stupidity’ gaffe
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Republican lawmakers are doubling down on controversial comments from ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber amid an explosion of interest from conservative media. 

Remarks that the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency” aided ObamaCare’s passage have become a weeklong headache for the White House as GOP lawmakers use them to rally enthusiasm for further attacks on the healthcare law. 

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Gruber, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has apologized for his comments. But the controversy continues to have legs as GOP lawmakers ratchet up the pressure and new details arise about Gruber’s pay and visits to the White House. 

As a consultant, Gruber visited the White House on nearly two-dozen occasions and met with President Obama in the West Wing at least once, according to a review of visitor logs. 

Gruber in an email declined to comment for this story. 

Federal contracting databases also reveal he was paid roughly $400,000 for his work on ObamaCare, with some reports pegging his total income from government consulting at around $6 million since 2000. 

The figures have become fodder for Fox News, where Gruber has been mentioned nearly 800 times since Nov. 10, according to the Tampa Bay Times’s PunditFact website.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records Transparency advocate says government agencies face 'use it or lose it' spending Republicans need solutions on environment too MORE (R-Ky.) joined the fray Monday night when he called for a probe of Gruber’s consulting fees. 

“He was paid, and now he’s admitted that he was deceptive and deceitful,” Paul said in an interview on Fox. “How can we pay someone to be a consultant to government who’s frankly admitting that they were dishonest?”

The criticism has not been limited just to lawmakers. Veteran CBS anchor Bob Schieffer called on Gruber to return his pay during a segment on Sunday. 

“While I favor health insurance, I am not wild about the new plan and how it became law either,” Schieffer said on “Face the Nation.” 

“But here is my question for Mr. Gruber,” Schieffer continued. “If all this was as bad as you say, why did you take the money you earned as an adviser, nor is it too late to give it back?”  

The controversy marks a significant increase in media glare for Gruber, once a relatively anonymous figure in Washington and healthcare policy circles. 

During the passage of the healthcare law, he came to the White House’s aid with a computer model that could anticipate how the Congressional Budget Office might score drafts of the legislation. This experience, along with prior work on Massachusetts’s healthcare reform law, appears to have helped Gruber secure a long list of state contracts on healthcare matters. 

Democrats emphasized Gruber’s work for both parties as they sought to distance him from the passage of the Affordable Care Act. 

“It wasn’t his responsibility to try to figure out how to get this bill through,” said White House 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. 

“It also, I think, is why it’s pretty clear that the views that he’s articulated do not reflect what happened,” Earnest added. 

Obama dismissed Gruber over the weekend as “some adviser who never worked on our staff.”

Talk of Gruber’s pay and visits to the White House have kept the issue in headlines this week as the health insurance exchanges opened again for business. 

HealthCare.gov has had few slip-ups in its first four days of operation, a stark contrast with last year’s failed launch that kept many users off the system for months. 

Earnest argued that Republicans are fixated on Gruber because they don’t want to talk about ObamaCare’s successes. 

“Some Republicans are fanning the flames of those old political arguments because it’s politically advantageous,” he said. “It’s easier for them to talk about six- to eight-year-old videos than to talk about how the open enrollment period has gone smoothly so far, or the millions who have gotten health insurance.” 

Republicans and their allies continued to discuss the videos across Capitol Hill and on social media Tuesday. 

In one instance, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE (R-Ohio) sought to use Gruber’s language to hammer the administration in a separate policy debate. 

Obama vetoing a bill authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline would be the “equivalent of calling the American people stupid,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner says it's Democrats' turn for a Tea Party movement House Republicans find silver lining in minority Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE said.