GOP’s anti-Obamacare push gains new momentum in wake of Gruber video - The Washington Post - Liar Liar!
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GOP’s anti-Obamacare push gains new momentum in wake of Gruber video - The Washington Post

The Republican Party’s ardent campaign against President Obama’s health-care law gained new momentum Wednesday as lawmakers reacted angrily to assertions by an architect of the policy that it was crafted in a deliberately deceptive way in order to pass Congress.

On both sides of the Capitol, leading conservatives said they may call economist Jonathan Gruber to testify about his remarks, which were made last year and surfaced this week in a video on social media. In the video, Gruber suggests that the administration’s signature health-care legislation passed in part because of the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency” over its funding mechanisms.

“The strategy was to hide the truth from the American people,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is slated to chair the Senate Budget Committee next year. “That is a threat to the American republic.”

Gruber has been a complicated figure in the history of the health-care law. He helped the Obama administration craft the measure and has been a leading advocate of it, but he has also made sporadic comments sparking political brush fires that have been problematic for the law’s supporters.

The White House sought Wednesday to distance itself from Gruber and his comments.

“The Affordable Care Act was publicly debated over the course of 14 months, with dozens of Congressional hearings, and countless town halls, speeches, and debates,” White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said in a statement. “The tax credits in the law that help millions of middle class Americans afford coverage were no secret, and in fact were central to the legislation. Not only do we disagree with [Gruber’s] comments, they’re simply not true.”

An administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity sought to play down Gruber’s role in developing the law, noting that he “did not work in the White House.”

In the recently disseminated video, Gruber expresses frustration with the political process surrounding the law rather than with the law itself. Nevertheless, the clip has again made the health-care law a primary focus for congressional Republicans, even after an election in which the party played down its zeal to repeal it. While health care was an issue often mentioned by Republicans, it was not a central one in the closing arguments for many Senate candidates. House GOP leaders, who had long planned to roll out an alternative health-care bill, moved away from that idea months ahead of the election, choosing instead to focus on the economy and the president’s leadership.

Now, rank-and-file conservatives and their grass-roots supporters are using the Gruber video to pressure congressional leaders to be more aggressive in coming weeks in their efforts to dismantle the law. There is a growing sense among Republicans that in spite of the challenges of fully repealing the law, they could make progress in undoing parts of it should the president and his associates lose credibility with voters.

“This gives us ammunition to make fundamental changes to the law,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and an influential tea party voice, said House Republicans may hold hearings on the matter, given the intensity of the reaction.

Jordan said that House Republicans have been e-mailing and texting one another about it all week and that he expects the interest in “bringing [Gruber] up here to talk” will gain traction.

“I just had a colleague text me saying, ‘We’ve got to look into this!” Jordan said as he glanced at his phone outside the House chamber Wednesday morning.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said the House leadership is also closely monitoring reaction to the video. “[Gruber’s] comments are a sad reminder that this awful law was passed in the worst possible way, with lies, secrecy and more lies from Washington Democrats,” he said in an e-mail.

According to his allies, Boehner plans to gauge the reaction among his members Thursday morning at a closed-door conference meeting at the Capitol. He is said to see the Gruber backlash as a potentially useful cudgel, but he is not yet sure how to use it.

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