KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sen. Roberts Lashes Out At Recess Appointment Of Berwick

"Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is taking aim at President Barack Obama for making a recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick as the new head of the federal agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid," CNN reported. "The recess appointment allowed the president to install Berwick while the Senate was on vacation over the July 4 holiday, thereby bypassing what could have been a lengthy confirmation process. 'It is ironic that the President chose Independence Day for this action, avoiding the Senate's Constitutional check on executive power, to appoint Dr. Berwick,' Roberts said in the weekly Republican radio address."  Republicans have criticized some of Berwick's comments about the British national medical system (7/17).

The New York Times: "The major concern among Republicans is that Dr. Berwick, who has expressed great admiration for the British health care system, will 'use this position to redistribute wealth in our country, cementing Obamacare as a giant, but stealthy, income transfer machine,' Mr. Roberts said" (Lorber, 7/17)

The Hill: "But Obama defended the appointment of Berwick – who will oversee critical aspects of the new health care law – in an interview with NBC that aired Friday. Obama slammed Senate obstruction of the nomination made in April, and said he opted for a recess appointment because matter was too urgent to be caught up in 'political games.' "

"Roberts, however, seized on recent comments by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) criticizing the recess appointment to cast concern with the action as a bipartisan affair. Baucus on July 7 said he was 'troubled' by the use of a recess appointment rather than the standard Senate confirmation process" (Geman, 7/17).

The Los Angeles Times has a transcript of Roberts' remarks as well as of President Obama's weekly address, which was about extending unemployment benefits: "Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of senators ... said 'no' to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote" (7/17).

Kaiser Health News has a Resource Guide about Dr. Berwick that has some of his speeches and his background.

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