GOP retaliates for Berwick recess appointment to Medicare leadership post

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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble 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.

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Also Wednesday evening, Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee demanded a public hearing on Berwick.

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 Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks GOP senators say Biden COVID-19 strategy has 'exacerbated vaccine hesitancy' Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam 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 GrassleyGrassley announces reelection bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B 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 Sieben BaucusBiden nominates Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bottom line 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.