(CNN) – Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is taking aim at President Barack Obama for making a recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick as the new head of the federal agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.
The recess appointment allowed the president to install Berwick while the Senate was on vacation over the July 4 holiday, thereby bypassing what could have been a lengthy confirmation process.
“It is ironic that the President chose Independence Day for this action, avoiding the Senate’s Constitutional check on executive power, to appoint Dr. Berwick,” Roberts said in the weekly Republican radio address.
“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,” the Kansas Republican added.
The move was Obama’s first recess appointment and immediately sparked fire from Republicans and Democrat Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate finance committee whose panel would have held the confirmation hearing.
But in an interview with NBC News Friday, Obama defended his decision.
“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,” he 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.”
Berwick is the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and has spent decades as a practicing physician and a Harvard professor, according to the White House.
But in his address Saturday, Roberts took aim at Berwick for some of his past statements.
“Dr. Berwick has spoken very favorably about the British National Health Service, calling it ‘not just a national treasure, [but] a global treasure’ as well. Unfortunately, the British system rations care to contain costs,” said Roberts.
“Americans will not know how much saving a life is worth until Dr. Berwick is calling the shots. There should be a public forum where he must address who should make medical decisions- your doctor? The patient? The family? Or the government?” he added.
“I’m Pat Roberts – and I am very proud to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate.
“I’ve had the privilege of serving the people of my state as both a Senator and a Congressman.
“And much of my work in Congress has focused on health care, and especially the needs and concerns of patients - whether in a rural hospital in my hometown of Dodge City or in a major metropolitan area like Kansas City.
“And no matter where I go, patients tell me they are very worried that the new health care law – Obamacare - will cost more, hurt their quality of care, and keep them from seeing their doctor that they know and trust.
“Now as you know, Republicans fought against holding the health care debate behind closed doors. We fought against the parliamentary gimmicks used to pass the bill against the wishes of a majority of Kansans and Americans.
“Now, as we all return to work after our Independence Day celebrations, we learn President Obama – again – has gone behind closed doors to appoint a health care czar without public debate.
“President Obama gave a recess appointment – avoiding a public hearing and a vote in the Senate – to Dr. Donald Berwick, making him the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“It is ironic that the President chose Independence Day for this action, avoiding the Senate’s Constitutional check on executive power, to appoint Dr. Berwick.
“Now upon learning of this move, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana said, ‘I’m troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed.’
“I could not agree more with my Democrat colleague.
“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.
“So a lot is at stake.
“His influence will extend beyond Medicare and Medicaid affecting nearly every American’s care because Medicare sets the course for private insurers.
“As part of the new health care law, Dr. Berwick will have to a cut a half a trillion dollars from Medicare, obviously limiting seniors’ choices.
“Now as a result of the recess appointment, Dr. Berwick will take office through the back door without any formal public vetting as prescribed by the Constitution.
“Now this flies in the face of what was promised to be the most transparent administration in our nation's history.
“So – what do we know about how Dr. Berwick will administer your health care? Let’s look at his own statements.
“He said, ‘any health-care funding plan...must—must—redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.’
“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.
“Dr. Berwick has spoken very favorably about the British National Health Service, calling it ‘not just a national treasure, [but] a global treasure’ as well.
“Unfortunately, the British system rations care to contain costs.
“The following disturbing statement of Dr. Berwick speaks for itself: ‘most people who have serious pain do not need advanced methods; they just need the morphine and counseling that has been around for centuries.’
“Now is this the person we want making health care decisions for us – for our parents– our grandparents – our children; grandchildren?
“Dr. Berwick has proposed similar rationing ideas for the American health care system saying, ‘the decision is not whether or not we will ration care– the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.’
“Clearly the president’s plan is to have Dr. Berwick’s use of rationing to cut that half a trillion dollars from Medicare.
“Americans will not know how much saving a life is worth until Dr. Berwick is calling the shots. There should be a public forum where he must address who should make medical decisions- your doctor? The patient? The family? Or the government?
“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.
“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.”