President Obama today named Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services while Congress is recessed, allowing Berwick to bypass nomination hearings and Congressional voting. The move also avoids public debate of the administration’s healthcare reform law before the midterm congressional elections.
Berwick, a Harvard Medical School professor and president of the Institute for Health Care Improvement, would have faced questions about previous comments in which he praised Britain’s government-run National Health Service and stated that healthcare rationing is inevitable.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said, “Republican lockstep stalling of Don’s nomination was a case study in cynicism and one awful example of how not to govern. When these federal programs were in trouble, they denied the administration the capable guy the president had chosen to oversee them. The president did the right thing making this a recess appointment”
A statement from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “As if shoving a trillion dollar government takeover of health care down the throat of a disapproving American public wasn’t enough, apparently the Obama Administration intends to arrogantly circumvent the American people yet again by recess appointing one of the most prominent advocates of rationed health care to implement their national plan. Democrats haven’t scheduled so much as a committee hearing for Donald Berwick but the mere possibility of allowing the American people the opportunity to hear what he intends to do with their health care is evidently reason enough for this Administration to sneak him through without public scrutiny."
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) who chairs the Finance Committee that would have overseen Berwick’s nomination hearings, was was quoted as saying, “Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee – and answered. Despite the recess appointment, I look forward to working with CMS as they implement health reform to deliver the better health care outcomes and lower costs for patients we fought to pass in the landmark health reform law.”