Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who said that the stupidity of the American public played a major role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to be verbally flogged by members of Congress. Amid the predictable litany of "stupid" references, Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) provided a poignant moment. Here's what she said:
On October 24, the week before election, my husband went to sleep and never woke up. He had a massive heart attack in his sleep at age 65. A perfectly, by all accounts, healthy man. Come to find out, in a conversation with his physician after he died, he chose not to have one of the tests, the last tests, his doctor told him to have. This happened to coincide with the time that we were told that we were not covered by Obamacare. I'm not telling you that my husband died because of Obamacare. He died because he had a massive heart attack in his sleep.
Lummis's husband was Alvin Wiederspahn, a former Democratic state legislator and a lawyer and rancher. They married in 1983. When he died, Lummis released this statement, which mentions the couple's only child: “Last night, my husband, Al, passed away peacefully in his sleep in our home in Cheyenne. Annaliese and I know that God has taken Al home to heaven, but right now our hearts are broken.”
Her statement about her husband in the Gruber hearing wasn't so much a question as much as it was a raw accusation about the Affordable Care Act, a statement she ended by asking for some compassion. "I want to suggest that regardless of what happened to me personally, that there have been so many glitches in the passage and implementation of Obamacare that have real-life consequences on peoples' lives, " she said, almost choking up. "The so-called glibness that has been referenced today has direct consequences for real American people. So get over your damn glibness."
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner tried to offer Lummis some sympathy, but was cut off by outgoing chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
Hearings like this are always political. But they don't usually offer such deeply-felt personal stories from lawmakers.