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 McConnellThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week 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 HaganDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote Former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan dies at 66 MORE (D) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senator wants to know whistleblower identity if there's an impeachment trial Senate Intel chair doesn't want whistleblower's identity disclosed Graham wants Senate panel to probe State Department over Bidens 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts Overnight Health Care: CDC links vitamin E oil to vaping illnesses | White House calls Pelosi drug price plan 'unworkable' | Dem offers bill for state-based 'Medicare for All' White House says Pelosi plan to lower drug prices 'unworkable' 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 BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor 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.