Senate Republicans are still fuming over the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the federal agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid.
In retaliation, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRepublicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy Americans brimming with optimism on the economy McCain hopes Americans can be confident GOP-controlled Congress can investigate president MORE (Ky.) blocked a Democratic request Wednesday evening to advance two of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Obama used his constitutional prerogative to circumvent Senate confirmation of Berwick by appointing him the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service during the July 4th recess.
Republicans struck back by blocking an effort to schedule a vote on two of Obama’s judicial picks: North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn and North Carolina Superior Court Judge Albert Diaz. Obama tapped both for the Fourth Circuit.
Both North Carolina senators, Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D) and Richard BurrRichard BurrReport: Senate Intel Committee asks agencies to keep records related to Russian probe Comey meets Intel senators amid uproar over Trump-Russia ties Senate Intel head in the dark about Trump intelligence review MORE (R), support the nominees. Three of the Fourth Circuit’s 15 judgeships are vacant.
Hagan attempted to bring the nominees to the floor for a vote but was rebuffed by McConnell, who cited the Berwick appointment.
“Democrats didn’t schedule so much as a committee hearing for Donald Berwick,” McConnell said. “The mere possibility of allowing the American people the opportunity to hear what he intends to do with their health care was evidently reason enough for this Administration to sneak him through without public scrutiny.
“So given that the President has been so dismissive of the Senate’s right to provide advice and consent under the Constitution, I am not inclined at this point to consent to the agreement proposed by my friend from North Carolina,” McConnell added.
Berwick, who served as president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston and as a professor at Harvard Medical School, drew GOP opposition because of past controversial comments.
In a 2008 speech, Berwick said he “fell in love” with Britain’s National Health Service, which he called “one of the greatest healthcare institutions” in history. Republicans have interpreted the remarks as praise for socialized medicine.
Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFlynn told FBI he didn't talk sanctions with Russian envoy: report Gorsuch hearing date set for March 20 Judiciary Committee wants briefing, documents on Flynn resignation MORE (Iowa), ranking Republican on the Finance panel, demanded that Democrats hold a hearing on Berwick so the public can learn of his record.
“We would request that the committee call a hearing as soon as possible so that the President's recess appointment does not result in circumventing the open public review that should take place for a nomination of such importance,” Grassley wrote in a July 14 letter to Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.).
“The need for Dr. Berwick to be considered in a transparent and deliberative manner is all the more important because the agency will be responsible for numerous and significant changes to federal health programs including the largest Medicaid coverage expansion since the program’s creation,” Grassley wrote.