KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Resubmits Berwick Nomination To Senate, Kagan Responds To Health Law Concerns

President Obama on Monday submitted his nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick to head Medicare and Medicaid - "a move that comes two weeks after Obama bypassed Congress to put his stalled nominee in the post until the end of 2011," Roll Call reports. If Berwick is approved, he would have the job indefinitely instead of merely through 2011, a rule that is imposed when a recess appointment is used. "The president originally nominated Berwick to the [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] post in April, but he used a recess appointment to install Berwick earlier this month after accusing Republicans of trying to stall the nomination" (Bendery, 7/19).

Bloomberg Businessweek: "Sending the nomination to the Senate following the recess appointment is 'simply a formality,' said Reid Cherlin, an administration spokesman. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ... haven't had a permanent administrator since October 2006. Berwick, 63, previously was president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health" (Sobczyk, 7/19).

Related: KHN's Dr. Donald Berwick - A Resource Guide

CQ: Republicans were critical of Obama's use of the recess appointment and maintained that they were ready before he used it for a hearing on Berwick. "On July 17, Finance Committee member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., used the weekly GOP radio and Internet address to urge the president to put Berwick's nomination in play" (7/19). 

In the meantime, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan faces a committee vote on her nomination today.

The Associated Press: "Democrats hope to confirm Kagan before the Senate's August recess, well in time for the court term that begins in October. Also Monday, Kagan responded to GOP questions that she would weigh stepping aside from hearing high court challenges to the new health care law on a case-by-case basis. She was replying to a list of questions from committee Republicans about her involvement as solicitor general in defending the health law." Kagan said she had no hand in developing the government response to a state-led challenge to the constitutionality of the health reform law and would recuse herself if she thought she had a conflict of interest in hearing a health reform case. Kagan is the solicitor general and is the lead official to defend the health law (Sherman, 7/19). 

The Christian Science Monitor: Kagan said she attended at least one meeting where the state lawsuit was mentioned, but denied any "substantive" discussion of the legislation occurred in her presence. "Ms. Kagan ... made the comment in a three-page written response to 13 additional questions the Republicans submitted last week. The members ... were seeking clarification on what role, if any, Kagan played in formulating the administration's response to lawsuits filed challenging the constitutionality of President Obama's health care reform law" (Richey, 7/19).

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