White House defends itself in ‘Gruber’ gate

The White House looked to distance itself Thursday from critical remarks made by one of the architects of President Barack Obama’s health care law, who suggested the law benefited from a lack of transparency and the ignorance of the American voter.

In videos that have surfaced, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has been quoted as saying the “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," in seeing the complicated law passed. "Call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever,” he said in the video from a conference in 2013. “But basically, that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass. I wish we could make it all transparent. But I'd rather have this law than not."

The surfacing of the videos come as the Supreme Court has agreed to take up a second challenge to the health care law.

Speaking from Burma, where Obama is traveling, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisted the process of creating the legislation had been “extraordinarily transparent.

“We all sat through many town hall meetings and discussions where this piece of legislation was vigorously debated by people on both sides,” Earnest said, noting that Obama had convened a meeting at Blair House with Republicans to the bill and that the meeting was broadcast by C-SPAN. “There was a steadfast commitment by this administration to make sure that people had good insight into the benefits of the law.”

And Earnest said he would “disagree vigorously” that voters are not intelligent. He charged Republicans with being “less than forthright and transparent” about how Republican-proposed changes to the health care law would affect people.

“I think if we're going to examine which party, and whether its advocates or opponents who have been honest about the true impact of the law, I think the administration grades out very well on that factor,” Earnest said.

Gruber helped shape former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's health care plan, and later advised the Obama administration on its proposal.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the video “confirms that they were spinning tales from beginning to end because they knew they couldn't tell the truth about Obamacare and have a chance of passing it, even with a Democratic Senate with 60 votes.”