Politics

Think Tank President Distances Herself From Gruber But Previously Praised His ‘Expertise’

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

Jonathan Gruber does not have Ebola, but liberals are treating him as if he has a political strain of the virus.

The most recent person to distance herself from the embattled MIT economist is Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, who wrote an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal Thursday claiming that “Mr. Gruber was not, as many claim, the architect of the health-care law.”

This despite Tanden previously saying in a public forum that she leaned on Gruber’s “expertise” while the health care law was being crafted.

“I don’t know how or why Jonathan Gruber has gotten so much wrong about the Affordable Care Act,” Tanden wrote in the Journal. “But as someone who worked on health reform for the Obama administration, I’d like to clear up a few things.”

“He is an MIT economist who, as a consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services, modeled the impact of various subsidy levels and rules. He did not make policy, nor did he work for the White House, HHS, or any congressional committee. Earlier, he advised the Massachusetts legislature when it created the health-care reforms that were a model for the ACA.”

While Tanden sought to downplay Gruber’s role in crafting Obamacare in her Journal op-ed, she indicated at an event held at the Center for American Progress on July 31, 2012 that the economist was essential to helping craft the law.

“I remember many a call to Jonathan Gruber about his expertise in Massachusetts as we were formulating the plan,” said Tanden, who worked on Obama’s health care team as an adviser to Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of Health and Human Services.

“A very important point to make Massachusetts was the framework for the president’s plan,” said Tanden.

“The fact that Massachusetts existed was critical to the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” she said later in the panel.

“Not only did we call in Jon Gruber for his advise regularly, but we looked very much at the results [of the Massachusetts plan.”

Tanden was sitting next to Gruber on the panel when she make her remarks. The event they were attending was called “The Anatomy of Romneycare,” held to highlight “the sameness of Romneycare and Obamacare.”

According to Tanden, Gruber provided essential budgetary information that the Congressional Budget Office needed to score the bill.

“The most important arbiter of everything was the C.B.O.,” Tanden told The New York Times for a profile of Gruber.

“We knew the numbers he gave us would be close to where the C.B.O. was likely to come out,” Tanden said.

Other academics cited in that profile indicated that Gruber played a key role in Obamacare’s development.

Princeton sociologist Paul Starr said that Gruber was attached to the mandate saying “it’s his baby.”

“He’s brought a level of science to an issue that would otherwise be just opinion,” another so-called Obamacare architect, Harvard economist David Cutler, told The Times of Gruber. “He’s really the only person who has been doing all this careful modeling for so long. He’s the only person you can go to for that kind of thing, which is why the White House reached out to him in the first place.”

And according Lawrence Summers, Obama’s former director of National Economic Council and the former president of Harvard University, the economic models Gruber had already developed saved the administration time as it was crafting the law.

“Creating a good model from scratch would have taken months, maybe years,” Summers told The Times.

After several videos surfaced of Gruber saying that a lack of transparency was needed in order to get Obamacare passed – “call it the stupidity of the American voter” – the White House issued a statement distancing itself from the architect-economist.

And on Thursday, California U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said of Gruber at a press conference “I don’t know who he is.” (RELATED: Pelosi Said She Doesn’t Know Who Jonathan Gruber Is Despite Previously Citing Him By Name)

It turned out that Pelosi had mentioned Gruber by name during a speech in 2009 and that her Democratic Leader website mentioned him at least eight times.

“There was no single architect of the Affordable Care Act,” Tanden continued in her op-ed for the Journal. “The true architects of the ACA are the members of the Senate Finance and Senate Health committees who wrote the bill, with input from dozens of congressional hearings and bipartisan round tables. Before that, presidential candidates, including President Obama, laid out a framework of reforms that became the basis of the Affordable Care Act.”

Follow Chuck on Twitter