Has MIT economist and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber inadvertently given new life to the Republican effort to repeal or radically alter the Affordable Care Act?
That looks possible today amid the lava storm of GOP umbrage over Gruber’s taped comments that the ACA passed in part due to the “stupidity of the American voter” and the “lack of transparency” about its funding provisions.
The condescending tone of these remarks seems to confirm the right’s belief that liberals are snooty elitists. House Republicans are talking about hauling Gruber up to Congress for oversight hearings, while conservative activists insist that the mainstream media is ignoring the controversy.
Incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had already indicated he plans to hold some kind of vote on repealing the entire Obamacare bill. Gruber-gate may increase pressure on McConnell to move quickly on that vote and others meant to make big changes in the ACA, such repealing its tax on medical devices.
“Gruber’s controversial comments have reminded the public why they view the Affordable Care Act with as much suspicion as they do. This is a consequential development occurring at an auspicious moment for the law’s opponents, no matter how much the press seeks to deny it,” writes Noah Rothman at the right-leaning Hot Air site.
We’re not getting into an analysis of Gruber’s words right now. We did that yesterday, in a lengthy story that apparently escaped Fox media critic Howard Kurtz, who tweeted this morning that “most of the media ignore Jonathan Gruber video.”
Sigh. Maybe someday we’ll become part of the MSM.
However, as we noted in that piece, Gruber’s got little excuse for calling voters “stupid.” Yes, the remarks were old, dredged up by conservative activists a year after they were made. But he said it a lot – there are now at least three tapes of similar remarks – and as a quasi-public figure he should know better than to frame things in such a disdaining manner.
That’s not just our opinion. Mr. Spock thinks so, too. We are not kidding.
“Mr. Gruber. To speak before engaging brain is illogical. LLAP,” tweeted actor Leonard Nimoy on Thursday.
That said, Gruber’s words haven’t changed the power equation in Washington. They’ve only inflamed an already fraught situation.
Obamacare won’t be repealed. President Obama would veto that, and he’s still president. There aren’t enough Senate votes to override it.
He’s also likely to veto any change in the law large enough to placate conservatives. A repeal of the tax on medical devices? Maybe that gets through . . . but maybe not.
However, the right wing of the Republican Party is already pressing Senator McConnell to tie Obamacare changes to funding bills, which require only a majority of the Senate to pass. The problem with that is that it risks a government shutdown, as Obama would likely veto any spending bill with ACA changes attached, even a sweeping omnibus spending measure.
So what’s changed is not so much the odds on Obamacare’s future, as the odds of an ugly confrontation between the White House and Congress in the early weeks of the next congressional session.