House Republicans Are Now Using ‘GruberGate’ To Promote Distrust Of The EPA


In this May 12, 2009, file photo Jonathan Gruber, professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, participates in a Capitol Hill hearing on the overhaul of the heath care system in Washington.

You may have thought the big uproar over MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s recent comments on Obamacare — aka “GruberGate” — was all about Obamacare. Turns out, they actually apply to the Environmental Protection Agency too.

That’s at least according to three Congressmembers who on Tuesday used Gruber’s controversial comments to argue for a bill that would encourage more industry representation on the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), the body that makes sure the EPA’s regulations are based on sound science. Proponents of the bill argue this would increase transparency at the EPA, because it also puts numerous public reporting requirements on the agency when choosing its scientific advisers.

Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Andy Harris (R-MD), and Randy Weber (R-TX) said Gruber’s comments represented a lack of transparency in the Obama Administration that has manifested itself within the EPA.

The Congressmembers’ comments come a couple days after videos surfaced of Gruber saying that the President’s health care law only succeeded because of a lack of political transparency in the Obama administration, and “the stupidity of the American voter” — comments which are demonstrably false. However, conservatives have since then been running with the story, deeming it “GruberGate,” a representation that the Obama Administration thinks big government knows best.

Now, the talking point seems to be extending to policy areas beyond health care. Case in point, the three Congressmembers who used Gruber’s comments to argue in support of the EPA bill. Watch them here:

The bill’s opponents say the reform would do nothing to increase transparency of the EPA, and instead “stack the board” with industry representatives while making it more difficult for real academics to serve. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also noted that the bill passed committee without a single Democratic vote, which gave Rep. Weber the first opportunity to bring Gruber into the conversation.

“It almost sounds like the Affordable Care Act to me, where recently revelations are one of the proponents said Americans were too stupid to understand,” he said. “So that’s why the Affordable Care Act had to be passed, and it couldn’t have transparency because it would never pass Congress.”

Next up was Rep. Harris, who piggybacked off Weber’s comments to defend the EPA bill. “We know fully and truly, as the gentleman from Texas said, because of the revelations of Mr. Gruber, that transparency is not a major objective of the administration, and I’m afraid that’s filtered down to the EPA,” he said.

Rep. Blackburn agreed. “I guess GruberGate has gone government-wide,” she said “And what we are seeing is [the EPA is] l trying to find ways to squirrel this away and hide, and not have that transparency.”

The Gruber talking point is just one more on a long list of talking points House Republicans use to argue for more restrictions over how the EPA crafts its regulations, the most prominent of which is that the EPA uses “secret science” to craft its environmental regulations on power plants and other industrial sources. Indeed, conservatives have been waging a campaign accusing the EPA of using “secret science” for nearly twenty years. In reality, however, aside from patient information on test subjects, the peer-reviewed research the EPA uses to craft its regulations is readily available to anyone who wants to read it.