Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber apologized Tuesday for his past comments that seemed to revel in the "stupidity of the American voter," which he said was a handy tool that allowed Congress to pass Obamacare.
"I would like to begin by apologizing sincerely for the offending comments that I made," Gruber said in prepared remarks before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He said in some cases he made "glib comments" about the process, and said his tone implied he's an expert on healthcare, "which is wrong." Gruber acknowledged his "insulting and mean comments" were uncalled for.
"I sincerely apologize for conjecturing with a tone of expertise and for doing so in such a disparaging fashion," he said. "It is never appropriate to try to make oneself seem more important or smarter by demeaning others. I knew better. I know better. I am embarrassed, and I am sorry."
Gruber's comments, caught in several videos that surfaced over the last few months, drew anger from both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans said they showed the distain for voters that Democrats held, while Democrats said Gruber's comments just made it easier for Republicans to keep up criticism of Obamacare.
During the House hearing, ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Gruber's comments were "stupid, I mean absolutely stupid," in part because they gave Republicans a "public relations gift."
Many Democrats have reacted to Gruber's comments by saying he was not the mastermind behind efforts to pass the law in 2010. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) even said she didn't know Gruber, a sign she and others were quickly backing away from Gruber after having praised his analytical work years earlier.
But Issa said Gruber was clearly involved, and charged Democrats were trying to avoid their own PR disaster. Issa noted that the Obama administration didn't want Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to sit next to Gruber during today's hearing.
"Current administration officials, however, have attempted to distance themselves from professor Gruber," Issa said. "In fact the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services urged the committee not to seat him with the administrator next to him."
Gruber took the side of Democrats at the hearing, and said despite his comments, Obamacare was passed in a transparent way.
"Let me be very clear: I do not think that the Affordable Care Act was passed in a non-transparent fashion," he said. "The issues I raised in my comments, such as redistribution of risk through insurance market reform and the structure of the Cadillac tax, were roundly debated throughout 2009 and early 2010 before the law was passed."
"Reasonable people can disagree about the merits of these policies, but it is completely clear that these issues were debated thoroughly during the drafting and passage of the ACA," he added.
Gruber also said his comments should not detract from Obamacare.
"I behaved badly, and I will have to live with that, but my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act," he said. "While I will continue to reflect on the causes of my own insensitivity, I hope that our country can move past the distraction of my misguided comments and focus on the enormous opportunities this law provides."
Read his full testimony here: