Senate Democrats and a former Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator who supported the nomination of Donald Berwick to head the CMS are now opposed to President Obama’s use of a recess appointment that circumvents the Senate confirmation process.
“It will have at least two very serious ramifications for him, and I say this as somebody who is a long-time close colleague and friend to Don,” said former CMS Administrator Gail Wilensky during a broadcast on C-SPAN2.
“First is, his tenure is limited, by definition, to the end of December of 2011. And second of all, in my mind, his appointment is tainted, at least for the Republicans—even those who had not spoken out in any way about issues he had raised in the past—just because of the process that would be used.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.), speaking on the floor of the Senate before the recess appointment, accused Sen. John Barrasso (R.-Wyo.) and other Republicans of slandering Berwick and taking his words out of context. Baucus was one of Berwick’s most vocal supporters.
But after Obama’s recess appointment of Berwick, Baucus stated in a press release that he was “troubled” by the rushed process. “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.”
Human Events asked organizations that previously supported the nomination of Berwick to see if they approved of the recess appointment. AARP re-issued their statement from April in which they praised the nomination. The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare did not respond.
When asked this week if the President used a recess appointment of Berwick to avoid a hearing because some of Berwick’s controversial statements, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “No. The President appointed somebody who he believed—and people, both Democrats and Republicans believed—was uniquely and supremely qualified to run an agency of the size of CMS. “
[Berwick] and the administration and the agency do not need this,” said Wilensky. “It will complicate life for everybody… I normally don’t feel quite so strongly. I am very frustrated and saddened for Don and the extra burden he will carry. It will be interesting to observe his first congressional hearing to see how that plays out.