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Obamacare ‘stupidity’? New energy for repeal push

November 14, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly surfaced videos are adding fresh energy to the efforts of U.S. congressional conservatives to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, feeding into their contentions that the overhaul was approved through a scheme of deception.

Some are calling anew for hearings on the law, which is about to begin its second year of health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. And activists are telling lawmakers to make good on their talk of scrapping the law or face defeat in the next elections.

The videos show Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber, an adviser in the law’s drafting, saying that “the stupidity of the American voter” helped Democrats pass the complex legislation, regarded by the Obama administration as its signature accomplishment and likely to figure strongly in the president’s legacy.

“The Gruber clip has caught fire,” says David Bozell, whose ForAmerica group campaigns against the health care law online.

In one video, Gruber describes what he depicts as the behind-the-scenes political strategy of the law’s supporters. At a 2013 pubblic forum, he says Americans’ lack of understanding helped Democrats pass the legislation.

Other impolitic statements have continued to dribble out in which Gruber claims that the law was written to deceive federal budget watchdogs and mocks conservatives’ concerns over health care policy.

He has since disavowed the most controversial remarks, saying he “spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.”

Republicans, who made big gains during last week’s congressional elections, have stood unified against the law they deride as “Obamacare,” and they now point to Gruber’s comments as yet another reason to dump it. They say the remarks show a cynical strategy by Democrats to camouflage the law’s politically unpalatable aspects and sneak them past an unsuspecting public.

Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican, is among those calling for hearings, perhaps including Gruber as a witness.

“This is what we complained about when we fought it for all those months on the floor. Nobody understood it,” McCain said.

The videos have put Democrats on the defensive. Traveling with Obama in Asia this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the health law and said he would “disagree vigorously” with Gruber’s assessment. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat instrumental in the law’s passage, said she did not know Gruber — despite having cited his analysis at least once in the past during an on-camera briefing with reporters.

“He didn’t help write our bill,” she said this week.

Both policy and politics are in play for the Republicans. If congressional Republicans fail to push hard for repeal, they’ll face angered activists.

As the head of one influential conservative organization met with activists in Georgia this week, the mere mention of Gruber’s name drew jeers and brought people to their feet.

“It certainly has lit a fire among the grass roots,” said Heritage Action for America chief executive Michael Needham. “All it does is confirms what everyone knows: I don’t think anyone in this country thought this law was passed without obfuscation.”

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Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott

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