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Issa asks Gruber if he’s ‘stupid,’ Gruber apologizes

An economist who advised the Obama administration on health care is apologizing to Congress for his “thoughtless” remarks that Republicans have seized upon in attacking the president’s health law.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber told groups last year that the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency” were important to passing the legislation in 2010 without any GOP support.

On Tuesday Gruber expanded on earlier apologies in prepared testimony before the House Oversight committee.

Watch the hearing live on C-SPAN

Gruber said his comments were uninformed, “glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting.” He said passage of the health law was transparent and heavily debated in public, despite his earlier comments. Gruber said he was not the “architect” of the law, and apologized for “inexcusable arrogance.”

Democrats welcomed the chance to tamp down the uproar over Gruber. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, glared at Gruber and called his remarks from 2013 “absolutely stupid” and “incredibly disrespectful.”

Gruber also insisted he’s not “stupid” when questioned by Republican Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.

The exchange went like this, according to Talking Points Memo:

“I’ve been accused that I’m going to berate you or something and I hope it won’t feel that way when I get done. But the night before last I was at the Kennedy Center honors where they honored Tom Hanks, who famously portrayed Forrest Gump. The ultimate successful stupid man,” Issa said. “Are you stupid?”

“I don’t think so, no,” Gruber said.

“Does MIT employ stupid people?” Issa asked.

“Not to my knowledge,” Gruber said.

“Okay. So you’re a smart man who said some, as the ranking member said, some really stupid things,” Issa said. “Is that correct?”

“The comments I made were really inexcusable,” Gruber said.

CONTRIBUTING: ASSOCIATED PRESS