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. gw bash

    Well it was okay for W to do it. Why didn't mr fussy pants say something about recess appointments when he was doing it? Typical repugnican.

    July 17, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Tuna

    This guy sounds like a cry baby!! Just remember he is a member of the NO party.

    July 17, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. Marty, FL

    Two names for Sen. Roberts: Michael Gallagher & Theodore Kassinger.

    These men were recess appointments during Independence Day 2004 while Roberts was in office. Transparently, there were No outcries at that time from Sen. Roberts... A hypocritical "gimmick," indeed.

    July 17, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Pat NC

    Rules do not apply to Obama. I don't know what has happened to medicare, but they have stopped paying for perscriptions. I had a rude awakening when I tried to get my meds. My neighbor also faced the same thing. The drug store said that medicare has been frozen. How long? Can't get an answer on that. What are elderly suppose to do? Is this part of Obama health care"? If it is I can not survive until elections.

    July 17, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Shannon

    George Bush made 171 recess appointments, where was the fake outrage during all of those appointments. Repulicans tha party with no ideas, the party that stands for nothing, the party that calls the unemployed lazy, and apolozizes to BP. Is anyone suprised they are hypocrites too.

    July 17, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. all of America

    Just another piece to obamas socialistic agenda,an appointment you cannot question, gross abuse of power. obama has no business being in this position,he must be impeached!

    July 17, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. Shannon

    hey Don in Sacramento, were you upset that Bush spent over 900 days at his ranch or Camp David during his term, and have you forgotten who started those two costly wars you are whining about now.

    July 17, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. SkiDoc

    Absolutely right. After being caught out on bearing false witness on government-funded abortion, he again shows no courage on this appointment – a shameless redistributionist. November can't come soon enough!!

    July 17, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. Mesa Mick

    Obama's the boss – Deal with it. If he didn't move for a recess appointmenmt you rethugliCANTs would delay this appoint like all the others.

    Since you rethugs can't "do" government and make it work (just look at the first decade of the 21st century) you have chosne to torpedo it instead. Subversion and sedition – Nice goverment theory GOPers...

    July 17, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. General Comments

    There are two types of people in America: Those who want to take Obama down by taking America down, and those who want to build America up.

    July 17, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. GonzoinHouston

    Recess appointments are supposed to be non-controversial in nature. W completely blew that away with the appointment of John Bolton to the UN. I've read the article and all the controversy seems to be that Obama made a recess appointment.

    Is there something in this guy's record that makes him questionable for the job, or is this just GOP obstruction?

    July 17, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. SkiDoc

    Bush did it too. Bush did it too. What a sad justification for one of the poorest choices for a health leader – an avowed redistributionist. Just like the economy – it's all Bush's fault . God help us make it to November to throw these socialist losers out.

    July 17, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. 'Bama Grandma

    Grandiose Obstructionist Phonies at their hypocritical finest.

    Wake up America...the Party Of No started driving this country off a cliff beginning with Reagan's deregulation and tax cuts for his rich buddies and ending with Bush's incompetency, two unpaid for wars, more tax cuts for the rich buddies and turning a surplus into a record deficit by leveraging the US to China.

    If you want more of the same failed policies by all means, vote Republican in 2010 and 2012. Until then, buck up and deal with the unprecedented destruction the Republican party has brought upon our nation.

    July 17, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Oy Vey Az

    We might get more done if the right wing didn't have its foot so squarely on the neck of the confirmation process.

    July 17, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  15. RB

    Folks, this is not a dem or rep thing. This is a concern for all of us. Throw away all the fussing and look at what is happening to this country. Reps. and Dems. have put us in a hole and the damnest mess I have ever seen and I am 70 years old and a Dem. I vote for the man and not the party. Take the blinders off this man is no good and needs to be replaced by someone, anyone. I can not stand to see how this country is sliding down further and further. We have idiots in the WH in the Congress, House and in state governments. When will we learn that a man with no experience such as Bush and Obama can run this country?

    July 17, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. Step aside and stop halting progress....from an R.N.

    If you're going to criticize an appointment for medicare/medical Czar who is a Doctor.........
    It should only be a Doctor doing the criticzing with clear and rational medical reasons stated to oppose the appointment........
    Otherwise, get out of the way and stop holding up progress. We are sick and tired of seeing a halt to progress over partisan bickering..........
    And a Senator from Kansas who isn't a Doctor without being able to identify clear and rational medical reasons against the appointment spells....."PARTISAN POLITICS"............

    July 17, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. Herrick

    It would be so refreshing if just once the Republicans would join other Americans for the good of the country. If we waited for people like Roberts, we would have a century of waiting for good health care. Now, we can move forward.

    July 17, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. Larry

    @ larry

    That's the way to do it larry.

    We need to give President Obama a real filibuster-proof senate in November.

    July 17, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  19. sara

    I don't mean to be rude, but I don't know how else to say it. The Gop would find fault with the way the President sat on the toilet. This is really getting plain stupid. Roberts what happened in 2004, or did you forget.

    July 17, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. all of America

    All you dems sound like you have the mentality of a five year old kid. You can say anything you want , that doesen't change the FACT that obama is a real looser ! He doesen't have a clue how to lead a country,it shows in his actions. He will be gone in 2012 , if he's not impeached first.

    July 17, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. Pete in Austin, TX

    Its a shame to see the Republicans evolve into the type of party they have become. They are clearly the party that see's big business as its GOVERNMENT and the RICH as the MEEK INHERITORS OF THE EARTH. I think they will be rudely surprised when NOVEMBER rolls around and they see that the AMERICAN PEOPLE will hand them a little GIFT call 'HELL NO' for ALWAYS SAYING NO when we go to the BALLOT BOX.

    July 17, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  22. Mickey, NY

    The GOP has become more of a gimmick than anything else.

    July 17, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. JonDie

    “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.

    The Senate does not have the constitutional power to BLOCK ALL PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS.

    However, frome 2001 to 2007, the Republican-controlled Senate rubber-stamped every one of Bush's disastrous iniatitives much like the Soviet Potiburo. So why won't Comrade Roberts attempting to block most of Obama's appointments?

    July 17, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  24. Squigman

    I'm sure if his party were in power, any and all questionable activities would be glossed over as if they didn't exist. Much like the years 2001, to 2008. All republicans should be placed in one unemployment line or another. And as soon as they appear in these lines, I'd like to see all benefits taken away for the sake of national preservation.

    July 17, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  25. Willy Brown

    That's the only thing Obambi is allowed to do with out getting permission from George Soros and the union thugs

    July 17, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
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