GOP whacks Berwick appointment, healthcare law in weekly address

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory Top GOP senators say they have the votes to pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-Kan.) used the GOP’s weekly address to bash President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE’s recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to run Medicare and Medicaid, alleging it “flies in the face” of administration pledges of transparency.

Roberts attacked Berwick – who Obama appointed to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the July 4 congressional break – for several past statements, including his remark that health care funding plans should redistribute wealth from the richer to the poorest.

Roberts also reiterated GOP criticism of the sweeping new Democratic health care law when slamming Berwick, a Harvard University professor.

“Well, the obvious fear is Dr. Berwick will in fact use this position to redistribute the wealth in our country, cementing Obamacare as a giant, but stealthy, income transfer machine,” Roberts said.

Roberts called the use of a recess appointment – which allows presidents to bypass Senate confirmation – inappropriate, especially in light of the massive programs that Berwick will oversee.

“Without a public confirmation hearing on Dr. Berwick’s nomination, the Senate and the American people do not have the opportunity to learn about the man who will control one third of all health care spending in America,” he said.

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.”

“[W]hen 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,” Obama 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.”

Roberts, however, seized on recent comments by Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBooker tries to find the right lane  Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP tries to keep spotlight on taxes amid Mueller charges MORE (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.

“I could not agree more with my Democrat colleague,” said Roberts, who sits on the Finance Committee as well as the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which both have jurisdiction over major aspects of health policy.

“We urge the president to reconsider his recess appointment of Dr. Berwick and encourage the Finance Committee to at least hold a public hearing now,” he said.

“The president’s health care plan – the most sweeping overhaul of health care in our lifetime – cannot be implemented behind closed doors. This is a warning! Your health care and the care of your loved ones now hangs in the balance. Americans deserve answers,” Roberts added.