Obama makes recess appointment at CMS

The White House said Tuesday evening that President Barack Obama is making a recess appointment to fill the position at the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a blog post Tuesday that Obama felt there was no more time to delay Dr. Donald Berwick’s appointment given the passage and signing of the healthcare law, known as the Affordable Care Act.

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"Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," Pfeiffer said. “But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”

The president nominated Berwick in April, and CMS has been without a permanent administrator since 2006.

Republicans including Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) immediately criticized the move.


"This recess appointment is an insult to the American people," Barrasso said. "Dr. Berwick is a self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won't even have to explain his views to the American people in a Congressional hearing. Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent."

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a leading critic of Berwick along with Barrasso, said Tuesday evening he was "deeply disappointed"  that the nominee won't have to answer lawmakers' questions about his support for the British healthcare system. In a statement, Roberts called accusations that Republicans were the cause of the delay "laughable" since Berwick's paperwork seemed to be incomplete and no Finance Committee hearing was ever scheduled.

“Because this post administers the Medicare program, it touches virtually every senior in America and represents one third of health care spending,” Robert said. “This recess appointment proves the Obama Administration did not have the support of a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and sought to evade a hearing. Once again, the Obama Administration is going behind closed doors out of fear the American people will learn that Dr. Berwick plans to use rationing as a cost cutting tool to achieve the billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare called for in the health care reform bill.”