ATLANTA — President Obama on Wednesday appointed Dr. Donald Berwick as the country’s new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The recess appointment allowed Obama to bypass Senate approval of Berwick, a move that has riled Republicans in both houses of Congress.
“Democrats held no hearing, allowed no public testimony and called no votes on this nomination,” U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said in a statement. “In short, they did everything to hide Dr. Berwick’s radical views and made absolutely no effort to follow the regular, established process for confirming a presidential nomination.”
Critics of the appointment contend the administration wanted to avoid scrutiny of Berwick’s controversial views, such as his support of cost-based rationing of health care. “Clearly, they did not want Berwick’s adamant support for rationing health care debated in the light of day,” Price said.
However, Obama said the recess appointment was needed to avoid delays due to political grandstanding.
“It’s unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges, many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes,” President Obama said in a statement announcing the appointment of Berwick and two others.
“These recess appointments will allow three extremely qualified candidates to get to work on behalf of the American people right away,” the president added. “With more than 180 nominees still pending before the Senate, it’s my hope that my colleagues in Congress will agree to put politics aside and move forward on these vitally important positions.”
“The administration has tried to justify this nearly unprecedented decision by saying ‘Republicans made it clear they were going to stall the nomination.’ Well, that statement simply belies fact,” U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said in a statement. “Republicans never even had the opportunity to ask a single question of the man who is about to be tasked with running an agency that is larger than all but 15 of the world’s economies, let along ‘stall’ the nomination.
“Democrats have a majority and can pass any nominee out of committee if they support the nominee – thus, perhaps the president was worried that a full vetting of Dr. Berwick would cause some in his own party to vote against the nomination,” Gingrey added. “Dr. Berwick’s views on the rationing of care are concerning, particularly given that he will be in charge of the health care for our nation’s seniors.”