President Obama said Friday he made a controversial recess appointment to head a key agency that will oversee the healthcare reform law because he could not afford to deal with the Senate’s “political games.”
In an interview with NBC News, Obama blamed Senate obstruction for the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to helm the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Well, what is true is when it comes specifically to appointments ... there have been more delays, obstruction and stalling when it comes to just appointing people to run the day-to-day aspects of Washington than any president has experienced in history,” he said. “And, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that I can’t play political games with the Senate on these issues. I’ve got a government to run.”
Republicans loudly objected to the recess appointment made last week, accusing Obama of skirting the democratic process by bypassing the Senate, which is constitutionally bound to provide advice and consent on nominees.
The GOP also accused Obama of not wanting to bring up questions about the new healthcare law. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had not vetted Berwick and joined the GOP in criticizing the president.
The president can also make recess appointments to fill seats, but the nominee can only serve until the end of the current session of Congress unless he or she is confirmed beforehand.
Republicans say Berwick’s views on healthcare are too extreme, citing a complimentary comment he made about Britain’s socialized system.
But Obama said it was time to move forward.
"At a certain point we have to go ahead and just make sure that people are in place to deal with the enormous challenges that are ahead," he said.