In a move that provoked anger among conservatives, President Obama bypassed the Senate confirmation process by using a recess appointment to put Dr. Donald Berwick in charge of Medicare and Medicaid. Berwick was nominated in April, but Republicans opposed him, saying he favored lowering costs by rationing care, so Senate Democrats had held off on scheduling a confirmation hearing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Obama's move "truly outrageous," but Democrats said it was necessary to get around GOP obstructionism that is holding up many political appointments. Was Obama right to sidestep a fight over Berwick? (Watch a Fox News report about the outrage over Donald Berwick)
This is a gutless abuse of the recess appointment: "It’s one thing to use a recess appointment when a President thinks that Congress has stalled a nomination unfairly," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, but "no one 'stalled' Berwick." Obama was just afraid to have his nominee — who once said the health system should redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor — questioned with midterm election voters watching.
"Obama gives recess appointment to Berwick"
Obama had no choice: When Obama nominated Donald Berwick three months ago, he was "hailed as a brilliant choice by policy experts from across the ideological spectrum," says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. "But Senate Republicans are Senate Republicans," and they turned Berwick's nomination into a "proxy fight" over the Affordable Care Act. Obama merely "cut short the nonsense" to wrap up what should have been a "painless" appointment.
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Both sides are right, and wrong: The White House is right that Harvard professor Berwick is well qualified, says Adam Sorensen at Time. But Republicans also have a point when they say it's unusual to use a recess appointment for a nominee who hadn't even "finished answering pre-confirmation questionnaires from the Senate." The White House just figured the heat was worth it to keep "hyperbolic Senate Republicans" from using Berwick's "cost-cutting expertise" and "unabashed admiration of Britain's National Health Service" against Democrats in the crucial midterm election campaign.
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