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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Obama Bypasses Senate For New Medicare Czar

Obama bypasses Senate for new Medicare chief

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 38 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama bypassed the Senate Wednesday and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor and patient care specialist, to run Medicare and Medicaid.
The decision to use a so-called recess appointment to install Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services drew immediate fire from the GOP. Republicans have raised concerns about Berwick's views on rationing of care and other matters and said it was wrong for Obama to go around the normal Senate confirmation process. That view was echoed by a key Democratic committee chairman, although the recess appointment is a tool used by presidents of both parties.
Berwick has wide support in the medical community but some Democrats feared the GOP would use his confirmation hearings as an opportunity to reopen last year's divisive health care debate. Obama defended the decision to appoint Berwick and two other officials, one to a pension board and the other to a White House science post.
"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," Obama said in a statement Wednesday. "These recess appointments will allow three extremely qualified candidates to get to work on behalf of the American people right away."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Obama of trying to "arrogantly circumvent the American people" with Congress out of town for its annual July Fourth break. Berwick could serve through next year without Senate confirmation.
"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," said McConnell, R-Ky.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., whose committee would have held Berwick's confirmation hearing, also said he was troubled by the recess appointment. "Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power," said Baucus. Berwick was nominated in April, and Finance Committee staff was still at work on the vetting process it undertakes prior to scheduling a confirmation hearing.

http://yhoo.it/aM0BYa

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