Obama official forced to sit next to Gruber

Controversial ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber and a top federal health official were required to sit next to each other at a House hearing Tuesday despite pleas from the administration that the two remain separate.

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The decision by House Republicans meant that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner was questioned alongside Gruber, famous for his comment that the "stupidity of the American voter" contributed to ObamaCare's passage.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who led the hearing, explicitly denied the administration's request at the start of the event.

"We believe this is a perfect pairing, a pairing of individuals who are responsible for what we know and don’t know [about ObamaCare]," he said.

House Republicans were prepared to grill Gruber over his comments and Tavenner over the inflation of ObamaCare enrollment numbers. Tavenner called the miscount a mistake in her opening statement.

The Obama administration has taken pains to distance itself from Gruber since his comments were unearthed this fall. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) specifically asked Issa not to seat Tavenner next to him.

"The accommodation of separate panels for government witnesses reflects important comity in congressional-executive relations," HHS Assistant Secretary for Legislation Jim Esquea wrote last week.

"The relatively few exceptions to this practice reinforce the seriousness of this accommodation."

A Democratic witness, an ObamaCare supporter, was also seated on the panel.