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Obama's Recess Appointment of Medicare Boss Draws Republican Fire

5 years ago
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President Obama took advantage of a Senate recess Wednesday to appoint Dr. Donald Berwick as head of the nation's Medicare and Medicaid programs, but the president's decision to bypass the confirmation process infuriated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell said Obama intended to "arrogantly circumvent the American people" by sneaking through Berwick while the Senate is on a July 4 break. Obama also made two other recess appointments -- meaning the three nominees can serve in the administration through 2011 without Senate confirmation.

Berwick, a patient care specialist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard's School of Public Health, was nominated as director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services in April. But no confirmation hearings have been held or even scheduled in the Senate.
Donald Berwick, Medicare & Medicaid director nominee
"Many Republicans have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a blog posting.

Presidents from both parties have used recess appointments to deal with balky lawmakers and get their people on the job. But Obama's move infuriated McConnell, who called Berwick "one of the most prominent advocates of rationed health care." Republicans fear the new health law will limit patients' choice in selecting care providers.

The Democratic majority in the Senate hasn'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 dare is evidently reason enough for this administration to sneak him through without public scrutiny," McConnell said in a statement. Not bringing Berwick forward to testify "about his plans for the care of our nation's seniors is truly outrageous," he said.

Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Montana), the chairman of the Finance Committee which would have considered the Berwick nomination, said he was troubled by the recess action. "Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power ... by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee, and answered," the Democrat said.

The AFL-CIO defended the president's move. "Dr. Berwick's appointment comes at a critical time, as key improvements in Medicare, for early retirees, and for Medicaid . . . go into effect this summer," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Obama also appointed Philip E. Coyle III as associate director for national security and international affairs in the White House Office of Science and Technology, and Joshua Gotbaum as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

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Old Harley Man

Obama pledged to be a transparent adminastration,that his would not rely on backroom deals ro the status quo. He chastiesed Bush for recessed appoimtments,he talked about up or down votes let the amerivan people see what were getting.Wow what a difference being the Pres. makes,Well bush did it ,all Pres. before me did it im just following the ststus quo.Bush spent to much.Its all bushes fault.WA WA WA what a hypocrit. Stop your crying and man up to the fact that your in well over your head on how to help this great country of ours and stop following your rules for radicals outline on how to bring America to its knees.Resign now and let someone cappable run the government.

July 13 2010 at 9:59 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
I love USA

I am keeping a copy of all of these comments...and as this hell of a bill that was jammed down our throats come to light and everyone who is happy that obama hired this guy to run the government health business ... the minute they don't receive care or one of their loved owns does not receive care via Berwick...don't you dare start to complain!!!!!! We have been telling everyone for months....beware! obamacare is going to come to haunt every single American!!!!

July 13 2010 at 12:27 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply


I would also like to state that the AARP did not agree with the Obama Healhcare plan. It was only the man in charge, or president or whatever, took it upon himself, probably told to by BHO to do it. No members had a say in it.

July 12 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Steven: You said in your comment that in Canada you can pay for your care out of your own pocker. That is not true in the USA. Many times it has been asked to stay in the hospital a day or two longer, and that you would pay for it yourself. The definite answer was "NO". The people that are so glad to say they approve of the Obamacare, DO NOT know the entire process we will be made to accept. Way past time that all of you LEARN the entire plan, then come back and say you are still in favor of it. OR you cam wait until it affects you then SCREAM to the care giver!!

July 12 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

voting no against the facts?????? lol

kev10:13 PM Jul 8, 2010(4) vote this comment up (19) vote this comment down<<<<<<<<<< How Often Have Recent Presidents Made Recess Appointments? President William J. Clinton made 139 recess appointments, 95 to full-time positions. President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments, of which 99 were to full-time positions.2 On March 27, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intention to make 15 recess appointments, all to full-time positions.

July 12 2010 at 6:13 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

Dr. Berwick is an OUTSTANDING choice.

July 10 2010 at 12:06 PM Report abuse -25 rate up rate down Reply
Big Daddy

There has been no director of medicare since 2006. If congress has to be bypassed to get appointments moving more power to him. For years the Fair Labor Relations board didn't even have three members to make a quarum, another attempt by republicans to neuter a federal agency till Obama appointed one during the last recess. These politicians aren't gods, poop or get off the pot. They bitch that medicare isn't working and then refuse to appoint somebody to run it, what a bunch of idiots, they think we're stupid and can't see the attempts to make govt. fail.

July 09 2010 at 11:01 PM Report abuse -20 rate up rate down Reply

How sad that our constitution is being completely circumvented, causing major adversity and bipartisanship. We were set up for checks and balances between the three branches of government for exactly this reason. Either party in the majority should not be able to make the minority meaningless. Our Senators and Congressmen have no power or authority. Czars, backroom deals, intimidation and special interests are ruling our nation. Corruption and greed are pervasive. It has to stop now on both sides.

July 09 2010 at 8:36 PM Report abuse +26 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ellingt5's comment

George Bush used this tactic 47 times..... how sad indeed!

July 11 2010 at 12:37 PM Report abuse -13 rate up rate down Reply

Republicans again displaying their selective memory. It is interesting and comic how repubs manage to pretend that Bush was never their president and that they supported every insane action he took, including putting this country in $1.7 Trillion debt while giving tax brakes to the rich. Not to mention the war based on lies.

July 12 2010 at 11:10 AM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply

I don't remember a recess during the Bush Administration, that he did not make an appointment. I also remember his supporters informing the "stupid, whinning, Liberals," that the president has the constitutional right to do so. Does Obama not have the same constitutional right?

July 09 2010 at 8:03 PM Report abuse -21 rate up rate down Reply

This guy is bad news for America!

July 09 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +24 rate up rate down Reply

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