OTR Interviews

ObamaCare architect's comments about the 'stupidity' of American voters: Washington arrogance caught with its pants down

ObamaCare architect's comments about ObamaCare's lack of transparency ignite accidental, rare transparent moment for Obama administration


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 11, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, take two. Remember the ObamaCare architect claiming that a lack of transparency and the stupidity of the American voters helped the Obama administration get the health care law passed? Now, economist, Jonathan Gruber, wants a do-over.


JONATHAN GRUBER, OBAMACARE ARCHITECT: Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing passed.

The comments in the video were made at an academic conference. I was speaking off the cuff.

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.

I basically spoke inappropriately.

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.

Public policy that involves spending is typically less politically palatable than policies that involve doing things to the tax code.

You can't do it politically. You just literally cannot do it.

This is something we have seen going back to the Clinton and Bush presidencies.

Get a law that says healthy people are going to play -- it made it explicit healthy people pay in, sick people get money, it would not have passed.

It would not make sense to do the Obamacare the way we did in Massachusetts, which would be just to actually give people money.

You can make it all transparent, but I'd rather made this law than not.

I regret having made those comments.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH: Good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to town.

Your thoughts about Jonathan Gruber, who, incidentally, is one of the architects of ObamaCare, and also, I should note, RomneyCare in Massachusetts. But, he has says, "Lack of transparency, huge political advantage."

LEE: It's accurate. But it's accurate in a way that hurts the American people. And this is exactly the kind of things we need to change in Washington. It's one of the reasons why I'm so excited to have a Republican majority in the Senate next year. It's not just about the traditional ideological differences between the two parties. We, as Republicans, genuinely do agree that we need to change this. We need to change that dynamic. We need an open and transparent process.

VAN SUSTEREN: He also talked about the stupidity of the American people, which is really stupid to say. He is now trying to dial it back because he got caught with his pants down on it. But what is so troubling, as a voter, as an American citizen, is what arrogance. This is not supposed to be some game where someone gets something put over on someone.

LEE: That's right. That's why I say it's accurate. It is, in fact, what they did. It was their strategy and it did, in fact, work. Sadly, this sort of thing is far more common than it should be. One of the reasons why, in a piece I wrote in "The Federalist" last week, where I outlined kind of a five-point plan for how we had to change in the next Congress. One of the things I pointed out, the very first thing we need to change is we need to restore the trust of the American people by having an open process where members of both parties get to produce amendments and have those amendments debated, discussed and voted upon.

VAN SUSTEREN: This bill though, whether you are a supporter or whether you hate it or love it or some place in between, this bill was passed without anybody reading it, which is just insane. Why we bother to send people to Washington if they are going to at least read and know what they are voting on. That famous statement by Leader Pelosi figure out what's in it later. The whole idea is that we now find out that the architects are calling the American people stupid. The members of Congress, who are voting on it, don't read it. Nobody knows what's in it. And it gets shoved down the throat of the American people.

LEE: Yeah. And that is a big huge problem. And it's one of the reasons why, why have to have a process that allows each member the right to offer up amendments and to have those amendments debated, discussed and voted on. When you do that, everyone is accountable to their own voters. Without that, no one is accountable.

VAN SUSTEREN: But who is accountable for this? The administration will get a public thrashing by maybe some in the media, some other politicians. But this is -- how do we have any real protection against it. It's like everyone is just going to thrash him and say how bad it is, but no one is going to-- frankly, is anything really going to be done?

LEE: I think, long term, it will. Long term, this will highlight something that has long been a problem. It's an acute problem that got more attention with Obamacare than in other areas. It does resurface from time to time. What we need is for more people to run, by campaigning to their constituents, and saying, look, if they don't give me time to read something, if I don't know what's in a bill, I will vote against it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nobody even squawked about it at the time. Very little complaining. According to the supporting party in this case, the Democrats, they weren't squawking about the fact that they didn't get it read it. Happy to vote for it. Follow the herd.

LEE: That's what has to change. Voters in the state of Utah and across America are becoming very concerned about this issue. It's a nonpartisan issue. Relates to whether or not you are going to do your job and whether you're going to read legislation before you vote for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of Senator Mitch McConnell as Majority leader?

LEE: I think he is going to be a great Majority leader. I look forward to the fact that we're going to have an open, transparent process in the Senate where members of both parties will have the opportunity to introduce amendments.

VAN SUSTEREN: So he will get elected unanimously?

LEE: I think so.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Good. We will be watching to see whether or not that happens.

Never dull though on Capitol Hill, is it?

LEE: Yeah. It's never dull. I look forward to the opportunity to govern as part of the majority.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice so see you, sir.

LEE: Thank you.