Yesterday, news broke that President Obama would use a recess appointment on his nomination of Dr. Donald M. Berwick to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Many Senators have begun to offer their reactions.
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
"I am deeply disappointed the controversial nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick to be the Administrator of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will not come before the Senate to address questions about his views in support of the British National Health System and government rationing of health care. Because this post administers the Medicare program, it touches virtually every senior in America and represents one third of health care spending.This recess appointment proves the Obama Administration did not have the support of a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and sought to evade a hearing. Once again, the Obama Administration is going behind closed doors out of fear the American people will learn that Dr. Berwick plans to use rationing as a cost cutting tool to achieve the billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare called for in the health care reform bill. It is very troubling to me that the American people will not get to hear Dr. Berwick’s explanation for his comments including: ‘I am romantic about the NHS. I love it,’ and ‘Most people who have serious pain do not need advanced methods; they just need the morphine and counseling that have been around for centuries.’ I am especially concerned for the rural health care delivery system in rural states like Kansas.
"Republicans welcomed debate on Dr. Berwick’s nomination, but the majority did not schedule a hearing. It is my understanding from reports that his paperwork for the Finance Committee’s consideration has not been completed. Suggestions that Republicans are the source of delay on Dr. Berwick’s nomination are laughable."
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
“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.
“Just over three months after passage of this misguided law, with Americans’ worst fears about it being realized every day, the fact that this Administration won’t allow the man charged with implementing the President’s plan to cut $500 billion out of Medicare to testify about his plans for the care of our nation’s seniors is truly outrageous.”
John Barrasso (R-WY)
"This recess appointment is an insult to the American people. Dr. Berwick is a self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won’t even have to explain his views to the American people in a Congressional hearing. Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent."
John Thune (R-SD)
"President Obama’s decision to put a leading advocate of rationed health care in charge of Medicare without even a public hearing is a slap in the face of the American people who have every right to know how Donald Berwick intends to implement President Obama’s new trillion dollar health care plan. Sneaking Dr. Berwick into power without giving the public any opportunity to hear his controversial views on rationing only raises more red flags about the unpopular health care law that was jammed through Congress over the objection of the American people. This is another backroom deal that favors special interests over the American people.”
John Kerry (D-MA)
“Republican lockstep stalling of Don’s nomination was a case study in cynicism and one awful example of how not to govern. Republicans screamed that these federal programs were in trouble, then tried to deny the Administration the capable guy the President had chosen to oversee them. The President did the right thing making this a recess appointment. He wasn’t going to let the Republicans thrive in a chaos of their own making. Instead, he put seniors, kids, and the disabled ahead of Republican gamesmanship, and he put a terrific public servant in place. Don’s decades of experience improving patient care and transforming the delivery of health systems will be a tremendous asset. He’s first rate all the way, and throughout Massachusetts’ landmark health reform, Don was there, helping lead our state to the highest rate of health care coverage in the nation. That experience will directly benefit us going forward.”
Max Baucus (D-MT)
“I’m troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed. 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.”
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
“Here they go again, thumbing their noses at the American people, jamming through a controversial nominee to oversee Medicare cuts in the new health care law. No questions on behalf of the American people from senators. Not a single confirmation vote. This is one more reason to elect more Republican senators to provide for a check and balance on a runaway Washington government.”
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
“The administration has taken advantage of the fact that there’s no check on its power, with one-party control of Congress and the White House. The nomination hasn’t been held up by Republicans in Congress and to say otherwise is misleading. As Ranking Member of the committee of jurisdiction, I requested that a hearing take place two weeks ago, before this recess.
“The American people have a right to know about Berwick’s background, his thoughts on rationing and government-run health care, and any potential conflicts of interest. All of that is hidden when the confirmation process is circumvented. Accountability to the people and transparency have been thrown overboard. The countless decisions that Berwick will make as CMS Administrator, as the new health care law is implemented, will have an enormous impact on America’s health care system. The law dictates adding millions of people to Medicaid and cutting over half a trillion dollars from Medicare, and this official will be responsible for the details of how all that happens.
“This recess appointment follows a pattern. Health care legislation was written behind closed doors. Broad new regulations have been written within the bureaucracy and issued without any public comment period. It really flies in the face of the President’s pledge to have the most transparent administration ever,” Grassley said.
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
“Dr. Berwick is a recognized pediatrician, a talented Harvard professor and one of the nation’s most respected voices for improving the health care delivery system. His work through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) with St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has resulted in a model health care system where providers deliver high-quality, low-cost care. For this, many members of the Iowa Hospital Association support his nomination, as have many primary care providers in my home state.
“I believe a lot of what we did in Iowa can be applied throughout the country – to the benefit of patients and providers alike – if we adjust our payment system to reward providers based on the quality, not quantity of care. Of course, the new health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, makes critical improvements to the way care is delivered and Dr. Berwick’s expertise will be critical as we implement those reforms.
“In light of Republican arguments for strengthening Medicare and reducing waste, fraud and abuse in the system, their opposition to Dr. Berwick’s nomination is unfathomable. So today, President Obama took an important step toward implementation of the new [sic] health reform and toward breaking the partisan politics that have stalled nominations in the Senate for far too long.”
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
“The recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services should come as no surprise after the health care law was drafted behind closed doors and jammed through Congress, but that doesn’t make it any less troubling. Not a single hearing has been scheduled on Dr. Berwick’s nomination yet he will be running one of the largest agencies in the federal government, one that will surely grow with the new law. The hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid deserve to hear Dr. Berwick’s plans for CMS. Additionally, his praise of Britain’s single payer health care system raises serious questions about how he views the federal government’s role in our health care system. The broken promises contained within the new health care law become more apparent each day and the lack of transparency and openness with this appointment represent one more.”
John Cornyn (R-TX)
"This recess appointment flouts the checks and balances of our constitutional system, which include the responsibility of the United States Senate to provide advice and consent on key executive branch positions. This particular nominee has not even testified at a committee hearing, an opportunity for the American people to listen to his plans for an agency that affects their personal health care needs.
“Based on the Administration’s track record on health care reform, the stealthy appointment of a controversial nominee comes as no surprise. From day one of the debate on health care reform, the President who campaigned on transparency has orchestrated special interest pacts, back-room negotiations, sweetheart deals in exchange for votes, procedural tactics on the Senate floor, and now an extraordinary maneuver to land an extremist nominee at the helm of CMS. It’s clear that the President knows his health care policies and the people he has running them simply don’t hold up in the light of day."
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
“Appointing Donald Berwick before the Senate even holds a hearing on his confirmation represents breath-taking arrogance on the part of President Obama. This year, CMS will disburse $803 billion in benefits – making the agency larger than the economies of Denmark, South Africa and Israel combined. Yet no senator has had the chance to question Mr. Berwick about how he would run the agency that will implement much of the President’s trillion dollar health care law. Besides the rank arrogance, this appointment raises serious questions about the President’s commitment to be open and transparent with the American people.”
(credit image – daylife/associated press)