July 17th, 2010
08:00 AM ET
4 years ago

Roberts targets Obama for recess appointment

(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.

Full Transcript:

“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.”


Filed under: Donald Berwick • Pat Roberts • President Obama
soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Richardhg

    Pat Roberts is upset that the Republicans were denied their further opportunities to grandstand and obstruct, in the particular areas where Obama and the Democrats have managed to make enormous changes.

    Berwick is a very qualified candidate. Note carefully, that Roberts does not look at Berwick's qualifications which show his eligibility, he focuses on a single statement that can be taken up by the Belief-driven Republican followers, quacking in unison of the evils of Government accountability in medicine.

    To suggest that the current rationing of medical care by the companies that currently provide health insurance (which is not accountable to anybody) is preferable to Government accountability on this same behavior is ridiculous. This rationing is currently happening simply to improve corporate earnings of health insurers, and to pretend that this can be corrected by market forces is ridiculous. Dead people can't change their insurers.

    July 17, 2010 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  2. Moderate

    George Bush made 90% of his appointments including ambassador to the UN in recess times. More appointments than all other presidents combined. I'm really getting sick of the GOP whine machine. Get over it and try doing your job for once!

    July 17, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. monsterbarak

    What do you expect from a sneaky communist president?

    July 17, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. ib

    Berwick will be a disaster for people on Medicare wait and see. Obama gets more disgusting as a president each day that passes.

    July 17, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  5. Ben Ben

    Shut up hypocrites. Bush did the same thing!

    July 17, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  6. dctwmt

    Wonder if he was equally upset at George W's 171 recess appointments, one of whom was John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador and a sweetheart of a guy. )NOT)

    July 17, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. Rick in AZ

    Apparently there was no history before January 2009 for the Republicans. I, however, recall George Bush giving a Recess appointment to John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN after he was rejected by the Senate. Whatever happened to the Republican mantra of having an "up or down vote"? There are literally scores of appointments held up by Republicans.

    July 17, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  8. bushwas sneakier

    I do believe Bush was far worse. He essentially took away our freedom under the guise of homeland security. He STARTED A WAR unconstitutionally and congress backed him retroactively.

    At least Obama is acting within constitutional guidelines. If you don't like it then stop playing the stall game with every step he takes OR change the constitution(good luck with that)

    He acted within the law so what are you whining about? You don't like the law, leave the country!

    July 17, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. Hawk in Texas

    SO MR. ROBERTS WHERE WERE YOU WHEN BUSH MADE ALL THOSE RECESS APPOINTMENTS? THE REPUBLICANS NEVER OPENED THEIR MOUTHS WHEN BUSH DID IT. AS FOR YOU WORKING ON HEALTH CARE. YEAH. MOST OF IT WAS VOTING AGAINST HEALTH CARE FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. HE HAS HIS TAX PAYER PAID FOR INSURANCE. KANSAS IT SEEMS THAT YOU NEED TO GIT THIS NUT OUT OF OFFICE. HE IS JUST ANOTHER MEMBER IN THE PARTY OF NO. THE REPUBLICANS HAVE VOTED NO OR STALLED ALL OBAMAS APPOINTMENTS. THEY WANT AMERICA TO FAIL TO TRY TO MAKE OBAMA LOOK BAD. THEY DO NOT CARE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY.

    July 17, 2010 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  10. once upon a horse

    I don't blame them for being angry......I mean President Bush NEVER made a recess appointment now did he? And even if he did the new GOP saying of course is "that was then, this is NOW!"

    July 17, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. Jared

    Wake up AARP. I don't understand why the elderly voters that dominate the voting block can sit by and wait to be subjected to this concetration camp style version of medicare. They are gonna gently put you down like sick dogs! In the british system if your over 55 and have cancer they just let you die. WAKE UP!!!

    July 17, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  12. thomas limperos

    Will you and your kind please give it up.Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.The party of hope vs the party of nope. The people will decide in november.

    July 17, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  13. No-sense makes nonsense

    At a time when it is essential for America to 'work' I've been absolutely shocked by both Republicans and Conservatives.

    America was formed on the basis of The Enlightenment. America was formed to move away from the Aristocracy of the old systems and to move toward a new system of collective and collaborative rights/responsibilities through a Constitution of The People.

    Although personal 'enterprise' has been admired, since 1984 Republicans and Conservatives have given away The People's Rights to Corporations and to Fundamental Christianity. Stop it!.

    I don't want to live in a country run by Big Business and where everyone works for a subsidiary of one Mega-Corporation or other. I don't want to live in a country ruled by religious orthodoxy.

    I back Obama and I back reclaiming the ideals of our Constitution.

    July 17, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  14. Jim

    He's not a czar. Czar's don't require Senate Confirmation.

    July 17, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. Nick

    Yeh, if the republications don't drag on, the president wouldn't have been forced to make a recess appt. Did you complain when Bush made a recess appt; No, in your opinion, that was necessary and no you whine. This s necessary too and he is president and live with it.

    July 17, 2010 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. nena

    As a dentist and owner of my own dental practice and high tax payer I give my authorization for the President of the U.S. to immediately appoint Dr. D. Berwick as head of the Medicare/Medicaid Agency, therefore avoiding the lengthy confirmation process. There is no time to wait, Medicare/Medicaid fraud is rampant and we need to put people in charge to investigate, prosecute, and stop the waste of big money. We've run out of patience, what ? the Republicans wanted time to complain and whine and criticize what the President is doing. No, thank you, Republicans. Go on your vacations, stay home if you want. You all are just getting in the way, cheering for the President to fail. WE DON'T NEED YOU, GO AWAY, YOUR INPUT IS NOT NEEDED.

    July 17, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  17. berndtc

    What choice did President Obama have? The Republicans are blocking and filibustering every piece of legislation proposed and every nomination. He has to do things like this to get the people in place he needs to have an effective administration. If the Repub’s would even attempt to work with the Dem’s, instead always of being the party of NO this wouldn’t be required. In November the voters are going to remember the Republicans intransigence and punish them for it, and they will deserve it.

    July 17, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. Jason B.

    Pres. Obama could've installed Jesus into that open position and the GOP would still have a hissy fit because they didn't get to puff up their chests and act tough.

    July 17, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. Hannah

    Again we didn't hear anything from these republicans when bush was making his recess appointments. He only made 171 of them. Where were they then. Oh, it's okay when it's your party. It's okay to start illegal wars when it's your party. it's okay to run up the deficit when it's your party. Vote these guys out in November. We don't need people like this running our country into the ground.

    July 17, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Rusty Burgoon-Clark

    PRESIDENT Obama has been in office over a year, and there are still DOZENS of VITAL positions that haven't been filled, on account of the naked obstructionism of the Republicanische Bund. *I* think he should have filled ALL of them.

    Every President has used recess appointments ... where were YOU the last eight years of the BuschReich?

    July 17, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  21. kate

    Sen. Pat Roberts...President Obama has a government to run like he said. Yo republicans have stalled, found excuses not to govern and so what if the British system rations care....? Which maybe it doesn't. Our insurance companies here in the good ole US ration care. And the republicans are on the side of the insurance companies. So does it really matter if the British system rations care....we have it too!

    July 17, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. Nate from Atlanta

    Can you blame Obama? Republicans vote no on EVERYTHING. If I was Obama at this point, I would side step republicans as much as I could,

    July 17, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. Donkey Party

    Screw the Right-wing America-hating obstructionists!

    July 17, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  24. hillcrester

    Let's consider that Clinton, Bush-lite, and others made hundreds of recess appointments. It is legal, just as the Republican't stalling techniques are legal. Checkmate!!!

    July 17, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. chris

    The problem with checks and balances is that the Constitution presumes that elected officials are public servants who will actively work for the good of the people. However, Repbulicans have become partisan hacks that only care about using every opportunity to attack, obstruct, criticize, deny and delay in order to force the President to fail -, without the slightest regard to the harm that it is doing to the rest of the county in the process. All in a blatant attempt to return their own party to power.

    July 17, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6