Reactions to Berwick's CMS Appointment

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , July 8, 2010

In the Senate, where confirmation hearings would have been held, Sen. Max Baucus (D MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the White House for not going through the standard nomination process. “Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects ... all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee—and answered,” Baucus said.

However, Baucus added, “I look forward to working with CMS as they implement health reform to deliver the better healthcare outcomes and lower costs for patients we fought to pass in the landmark health reform law.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking minority member, said the Obama 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,” he said. “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 deserve better than this type of arrogance of power,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Without so much as even a hearing, President Obama chose to circumvent the Senate and the American people by recess appointing his controversial nominee, Donald Berwick....No Senator—Democrat or Republican—was given the chance to ask Dr. Berwick about his strong support of Britain’s single payer National Health Service or his belief that government delivers higher quality care than the private sector.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D IA), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said, “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.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), from Berwick’s home state, said: “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.”

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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