Pelosi suggests Gibbs’s Obamacare comments are due to his business ties


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Updated 12:10 p.m.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Sunday that former top Obama aide Robert Gibbs's comment that the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act won't survive might be related to Gibbs's business interests.

"I don't know who his clients are or what his perspective is," Pelosi told CNN's "State of the Union." "But we are celebrating the fact that we have over seven million who have signed up."

Gibbs made the comment last week while speaking at a benefits conference in Colorado. The employer mandate requires companies with at least 50 employees to offer their employees health insurance options, but it has already been delayed twice.

"I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect," Gibbs said, according to BenefitsPro. "It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go."

Asked again about Gibbs on Sunday, Pelosi expressed exasperation that his comments would be given such prominence. "I don't know why we're focusing on that," she told CNN. "One person says one thing. Seven million people signed up."

Aides to Pelosi didn't immediately respond Sunday to follow-up questions about her remarks.

Gibbs has earned the ire of Pelosi and congressional Democrats before. In 2010, he infuriated Pelosi and her top lieutenants for suggesting that Republicans might be on the verge of retaking control of the House. He later sought to clarify his comments. But more recently he suggested that the Senate is “definitely” in danger of flipping to Republican control.

“If we lose the Senate, turn out the lights. The party’s over,” he said last month on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Since departing the White House in 2011, Gibbs has taken a path familiar to other former White House officials who use their ties to a president to enrich themselves and establish a new career. Shortly after stepping down as White House press secretary, Gibbs sign a lucrative contributor contract with NBC News and MSNBC, hired the Harry Walker Agency to help him secure paid speaking appearances and co-founded The Incite Agency, a consulting and media relations firm that advises Fortune 500 companies, including health-care firms.

The speech Gibbs gave this past week in Colorado is consistent with how the Harry Walker Agency bills Gibbs as a potential paid speaker. On its Web site, pitches Gibbs by noting that he "played a major role in the daily White House policy debates over the shape of healthcare reform." It suggests that during such speeches, Gibbs "articulates the future for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

The pitch concludes by stating that "The future of Obamacare -- and how it will affect your business -- is yet to be seen, and few are better prepared than Gibbs to guide you through that conversation."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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