[Guest post by DRJ]
President Obama used a recess appointment to install Dr. Donald Berwick as the head of the agency running Medicare. However, President Obama circumvented the normal advise-and-consent process — Berwick’s nomination was never set for a hearing and thus was not considered by the Senate subcommittee charged with vetting his qualifications — even though the President’s political party is in charge of the vetting.
A memo from GOP Senator Chuck Grassley’s office suggests why Berwick’s nomination is a Democratic hot potato:
“The memo from a staffer for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) suggests that by using a recess appointment to place Donald Berwick at the head of the agency running Medicare, the administration may be avoiding questions about whether Berwick’s healthcare institute received undisclosed funding from industry groups. The memo also raises questions with Berwick’s stance on euthanasia.
“I want to make sure it is absolutely clear up front that we were prepared for a nomination hearing to occur,” the staffer writes in the memo. “Furthermore, Senator Grassley had in fact requested that the hearing take place the week of June 21 (before the hearing on the Kagan nomination in Judiciary). So these items were not a precondition for holding the nomination hearing. Republicans were in no way holding up this process. We wanted the hearing.”
I think it’s pretty clear the Obama Administration didn’t want the hearing.
UPDATE 7/10/2010 — Republican Senator claims the Obama Administration planned this from the beginning:
“Senator John Barrasso, a leading spokesman for congressional Republicans on health care issues, today accused President Barack Obama of “intentionally misleading” the country and Congress by appointing Donald Berwick to run the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. The White House yesterday announced that Berwick would receive a “recess appointment,” which allows the president to put a nominee in place without Senate confirmation.
“This appointment shows incredible arrogance on the part of the president and it makes a mockery of his promise to run a transparent administration,” said Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon from Casper, Wyoming.
Barrasso repeatedly urged Obama to appoint someone to head CMS during the year-long health care debate that ended this past spring. In an interview this afternoon, Barrasso said that Congress did not yet even have all of the paperwork to conduct a hearing on the nomination. The Obama administration, he argues, planned to recess-appoint Berwick from the beginning in order to avoid a public debate over Berwick’s radical views. Barrasso says of Obama: “I think this was his intention all along.”
Barrasso and other Republicans have criticized Berwick since he was first mentioned for the CMS job. They point to his writings in favor of health care rationing and in praise of Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS). “I think the NHS is one of the great human health care endeavors on earth,” he said in a 2005 speech. “It can be an example for the whole world — an example, I must say — that the United States needs now more than most other countries do.”
Over the course of the health care debate, Democrats dismissed and even mocked those who described White House proposals as socialized medicine or a step toward a single-payer system.”