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. Hot Dog

    Why was this acceptable when the previous President made recess appointments? These same politicians that are complaining now sat quietly when Bush his recess appointments. Most of the complaints against this President are racially motivated.

    July 17, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. Jackalope

    Of course Roberts criticized Obama - he's a Republican, and Republicans hate Obama. They also hate the American people for electing him.

    July 17, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. nref

    President Obama has felt all along that he is the whole ball of wax and the wick too but come election time I'm sure his wax will start to melt for what he has done to date.

    July 17, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. TonyS

    So much for the most transparent administration in history. When it comes down to it, he's just as willing to break any and all rules for the left as the right is. I hope everyone can see that we're really all just out for ourselves and the ends justify the means as long as we agree to the ends.

    July 17, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Clint, Wa.

    What else is new?

    July 17, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Jess C

    Thanks Obama; we're glad at least someone is getting things done! They like to get you on both counts. "He doesn't move forcefully enough; not tough enough," or this. Forget the obstruction and "get 'er done" we say!

    July 17, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Liam C.

    Who is he to question The President of The United States? The Executive Branch is designed to make these kinds of appointments; Sen Roberts should know that.

    July 17, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Tom in Millstadt

    Grow up Senator!!!

    George W Bush made recess appointments during his two terms. John Bolton, William Pryor, Charles Pickering, Sam Fox, Susan Dudley and Andrew Biggs to name a few. He made 171 recess appointments. Where was your concern about "avoiding the Senate's constitutional check on executive power" then. Yah, I thought so.

    What a crybaby. That mean President Obama made recess appointments. Only republicans are allowed to do that.

    July 17, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Marge

    Doesn't stuff like this show that most republicans are just plain "nuts". How many recess appointments did Bush make about 100. So what is this ding bat now complaining about.

    When you have republicans like this that have been elected to congress
    it makes you wonder about the state of the mind of the people of this country.

    How he has the nerve to criticize this is beyond me. But then since republicans memories a about 1/10 of an inch long we already know.

    This post is being moderated only because it was against one of the CONservatives...boy does that word fit them.

    July 17, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. Former Republican - Now Independent

    Gee, as I recall, George Bush made a bunch of recess appointments himself.

    Did Pat Roberts complain about any of those? Or is he just a political hypocrite?

    July 17, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. James

    Senator Roberts needs to read Article II of the constitution, "the President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate"

    Pretty incredible that Senator Roberts would accuse President Obama of "avoiding the Senate’s Constitutional check on executive power" by using an express presidential power in the Constitution.

    July 17, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. James Brooklyn N.Y.

    That's what you get when you say no to everything.

    It is about time the Republicans realize they work for us not themselves. We want action and we want it NOW.

    Stop the childish games and get to work fixing the problems created by Regan, Bush, Clinton and the village idiot GWB.

    July 17, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. JOANN

    Like President Obama explained..he doesn't have time to play the political games the Republicans are playing...he has a country to run...so Sen Roberts get over it....he's the President!!

    July 17, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Michael

    I'm sure the good senator was equally upset when Pres. Bush also made recess appointments.

    July 17, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. Steve

    A moron talking to morons. The Republicans would do the same thing in a heart beat. This lets the guy get to work instead of tying up the Senate for months. Good job Prez!

    July 17, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. GI Joe

    GObP has done everything they can to make our country go down-hill. Hording money instead of hiring people, blocking votes in the senate on key appointments and key issues for our country.

    ANYONE who votes for the liars and obstructionists needs to seek psychiatric help or move. They are UNAMERICAN.

    Vote NO to the Party of NO.

    July 17, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Gerry NH

    There goes my health care. Redistribution of wealth and rationing health care show how much the president does not care for the American people. Taking a half billion dollars out of the system is just another way of rationing health care.

    July 17, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Atlantajack

    Odd how the many, many "recess appointments" during the Bush Administration didn't bother Pat Roberts or any other Republican.

    This is hypocrisy. Something Republicans have become so famous for.

    July 17, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. rdepontb

    No Republican has ANY right at all to mock or question ANY Democratic recess appointment after the behavior of their party's recent stint in power. The absolute gall of these people is sickening.

    July 17, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  20. Jim

    There is nothing but the desire to obstruct from the Republicans. They create gridlock for political gain rather than provide positive solutions for "all" Americans.

    July 17, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  21. Greg

    very transparent...

    July 17, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Don in Sacramento

    Way to go, Obama! If enough people didn't hate your guts for your high-handed pushing through of the horrible Obamacare health plan, your inability to focus on fixing the economy or ending two costly wars, they do now! You manage to squeeze in plenty of golf and vacations. With our nation in peril on so many fronts, your butt belongs in the White House, working for our nation and its people. Send your family away for vacations. Stay back and get something accomplished. Our real war presidents (Roosevelt and Truman) stuck to the job they were handed and only took working breaks at Camp David. You have disappointed many and we can not wait for 2012!

    July 17, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. Kurt

    He just so full of shit. There's a huge backlog of appointments because the party of NO wants to challenge and politicize each and every appointment. Not to mention Bush did the same thing except in MUCH larger numbers of appointments.

    July 17, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Surprise, Surprise, more Republican whining. These jerks have held up so many nominations, for so very long, they leave the President no choice but to make recess appointments. I'm amazed that our country is running as well as it is, with so many needed positions still vacant due to their same old obstuctionist mentality.

    July 17, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. db

    The Obama Administration – where change is a slogan.

    July 17, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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