The U.S. Senate will not even get a chance to question the man who will be responsible for cutting $500 billion from Medicare under Obamacare, program, as Chris mentioned earlier. President Obama is giving a recess appointment to Donald Berwick as new head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This means he will hold the post until the end of the current Congress.
Among most Americans who have heard of him, Berwick is best known for his starry-eyed comments about Britain’s National Health Service, a system that frequently denies care to the old, and whose bureaucratic inflexibility results in ambulances actually driving around in circles in order to hold down hospital wait times. Obama’s decision to recess-appoint him will help avoid hearings that would have prolonged and exacerbated the political damage that Obamacare has already done to the administration and the Democratic Party among seniors, who stand to lose the most from the Medicare cuts.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee sent out a notice late last night that I think sums it up nicely:
CMS is one of the largest agencies in the federal government. This fiscal year, it will disburse $803 billion in benefits – making CMS larger than all but 15 of the world’s economies. And of course, its responsibilities will only grow under the health care law, as the CMS Administrator will be responsible for implementing more than $500 billion in savings from the Medicare program, and an unprecedented expansion of Medicaid as well. Yet both Republicans and Democrats will be denied any opportunity to question Dr. Berwick about how he plans to implement the law, and manage CMS, because the President decided to make a recess appointment before the confirmation process began in earnest.
It’s nearly unprecedented for an Administration to recess appoint a nominee that has not even come up for a hearing. It’s unfortunate that President Obama saw fit to take such this extraordinary step and appoint an individual charged with overseeing a benefits budget larger than the economies of Denmark, South Africa, and Israel combined without so much as a hearing to examine his views. And it’s doubly unfortunate that the Administration apparently views any attempt to scrutinize someone appointed to manage an $800 billion budget as “Washington game-playing.”
Once again, we see President Obama “throwing some elbows.” The question is whether senior voters will take notice.