Obama Crowns Berwick as Head of CMS
Recess appointment for Harvard Prof nixes potential rocky Senate confirmation process.
- By David Kopf
- Jul 08, 2010
President Obama will use a “recess appointment” to make Harvard Professor David Berwick, MD, MPP the administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, side-stepping the Senate confirmation process.
CMS has had no permanent leadership since Administrator Mark McClellan left the agency in late 2006.
Besides running the agency that is the focal point for the HME industry’s revenues and regulatory, Berwick will sit in a key position to implement the administration’s healthcare reform efforts.
By appointing Berwick during the Congressional Recess for Independence Day, the president avoids Berkwick’s nomination undergoing review and confirmation by the Senate. Given the criticism and opposition Berwick has received from Republicans, his confirmation looked somewhat contentious.
“Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points,” wrote White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on the White House blog. “With the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing. That’s why tomorrow the president will use a recess appointment to put Dr. Berwick at the agency’s helm and provide strong leadership for the Medicare program without delay.”
Senate response to the news that the confirmation process was entirely nixed was essentially drawn along party lines.
“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 Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Republican lockstep stalling of Don’s nomination was a case study in cynicism and one awful example of how not to govern,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “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.”
“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,” countered Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “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.”
David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.