July 17th, 2010
08:00 AM ET
12 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. Don

    You damn Republicans don't know anything about good healthcare. The idea is to take care of the patient, first; then, worry about cost later. Its not a Democratic or Republican idea; ITS GOOD HEALTHCARE! In fact, we don't hear you complaining when healthcare professionals act that way! This is the Hypocratic Oath in action-DUH!

    You may not love what the president did and its understandable since you don't give a damn about us hard working low-lifes!

    July 17, 2010 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  2. KatR

    More scare tactics from the GOP. They keep confusing health INSURANCE with health CARE. HCR is all about regulating health insurers mandating that their policies cover aspects of health care that insurers refuse to cover because it would hurt their profit line. I feel sorry for all the Americans who believe the fear-inducing lies that sputters from GOP brains.

    July 17, 2010 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  3. RTB

    I am so proud of the Pres. His position on Dr. Berwick is the right one.

    The same old sour grapes Republican NO bodies would drag out the confirmation process for ever no matter who the Pres. nominates.

    Sen. Baucus is a disgrace and is in reality a Republican. Look at his voting record and where his contributions come from.

    July 17, 2010 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  4. Greg

    Thank god Republicans never did this...Wait, they do it all the time when they hold power. Once again the hypocrisy of conservatives is laughable

    July 17, 2010 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. DENNA

    If the Republicans would do what they are supposed to do, President Obama would not have to do and end-run around them. Remember, however, his maneuver is completely legal and he has the right to do it. Also, for those who don't like him, your savior, George Bush did the same thing and quite a bit more than President Obama. So I'd say this argument is a wash. Next faux outrage.

    July 17, 2010 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. David H

    Gimme a break. Republicans did this all the time. More hypocrisy from the party of liars.

    July 17, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  7. marlene

    The President was right to make this appointment, as the "Party of NO" consistently puts holds on his nominations. I hope he makes more appointments during the "August Recess", while Congress is going to fund raisers and pandering to constituents.

    July 17, 2010 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  8. Riley


    July 17, 2010 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  9. Jim El Paso Tx

    Roberts is an a** just like all the other Repukes in Congress. They like NOTHING that comes out of this White House good, bad or otherwise an offer NO ideas of their own. Of course it was ok when DUBYA made his appointments to avoid the Dem controlled Congress. Butt heads!!!!

    July 17, 2010 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  10. hobart

    It's even more interesting that the Republicans in the Senate have used their "constitutional" powers of blocking appointments and filibustering legislation more times during the Obama presidency than during the rest of our history combined.

    Their loathsome tactics are a recipe for endless gridlock from now until eternity. No president will ever be able to appoint anyone, and no legislation will ever pass, without supermajorities, ever again, thanks to precedent being set by today's Republican Party, the Party of NO!.

    This is not what the Founders intended, and Sen. Roberts and the rest of his party DAMN WELL KNOW IT!

    It's time for what was the Party of Lincoln to purge itself of these loathsome Nazi authoritarians.

    Why do Republicans hate America?

    And oh, by the way, the same Constitution that allows Republican Senators to block everything also allows the President ways around some of those blocks, and they damn well know that too!

    Vote them out!

    July 17, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  11. Ed

    There is no rationalizatior or justification for obama to make that appointment....period.

    We won't make it until 2012.

    July 17, 2010 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. ED FL

    This Turkey from Kansas says he is proud to serve the people of Kansas How about the country. Roberts is more than likely another right wing hate mongering DRAFT DODGING RACIST that fits the mould of the GOP today. Yippee for big buisness and banks and his own wallet. President Obama should use evey bit of power to appoint Positions and Presidential orders to grant whatever he can because the [G NO PARTY] will give him nothing . If he is going to lose his job by not getting anthing passed, So BE it but the country should have some benefits that he can impose without the right wing SCREWBALLS.

    July 17, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. sharon

    Let me guess – Mr. Roberts is a Republica-no Why were recess appointments okay under President Bush but suddenly not okay. Would he or any of the others you all are blocking ever been approved – no. You all are such hypocrites!!! Suddenly, after 8 years of pure financial irresponsibility, now you all are suddenly fiscally responsible what a joke. Ihope all your no no no no no to everything backfires big time in November. I cannot figure out what your party is going to run on. You have accomplished nothing in 1 and 1/2 years but gripe, complain, and makeup things in hopes of frightening the voter (death panels) All your efforts got you one thing, the Tea Party group. Good luick with that.

    July 17, 2010 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  14. jp,michigan

    In the History books, the discription of President Obam will read, ' Slipery as a Snake and Sly as a Fox' #1 in the appointment with out the constitutional right of Congress to check out that appointment.

    July 17, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  15. Pragmatic

    I don't have my list of those "recess appointments" Bush made. Doesn't the GOP ever get tired of the hypocrisy? Don't the realize that no one listens when they carp & complain about what one president does – when their president did the same ... only more?

    Ignorance can be cured but stupidity (partisan politics) goes on forever!

    July 17, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  16. AmericanFlag

    Learned this from Bushbaby.

    July 17, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  17. DickNH

    Senator Roberts has a very short memory.....how convenient.....I guess it was PERFECTLY OK for "W" to make those 171 recess appointments... 99 of those were for full time positions. Senator Roberts....wash your mouth out with soap....hypocrite !!!

    July 17, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  18. BD70

    I don't recall reading much about the other presidents doing the very same thing. Get over it.

    July 17, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. JonDie

    All presidents use recess appointments.

    July 17, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  20. Larry

    Republicans are desperate people. They should be. Their party is falling apart.

    Bush made 171 recess appointments.

    Try not to make yourself look so stupid Roberts.

    July 17, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. mtv

    Good for Obama!! What he needs to do is Appoint and Replace all the deadbeats for GOP to Dem who are just arguing and doing Nothing but getting a check at the Tax Payers espense!!!!

    July 17, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Jim

    Who cares?!! These people need a life! My goodness Obama can't catch a break from these old white males and middle age white females. And you want to tell me this is not about his race?! Come on!!!

    July 17, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  23. linda iowa

    Oh my, when the shoe is on the other foot! Hypocrisy at it best.

    July 17, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  24. Double Standards

    Do we remember John Bolton? Bush made a recess appointment to U.N. Ambassador in August 2005, after having been blocked by the Senate. Bolton was number 106 of Bush's recess appointments with many more to come later.

    July 17, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  25. Ross

    Well, I am from Kansas and apparently not represented by Sen. Roberts. The continued obstruction of the appointment process by the Republican Party... and THEY complain when the President uses the only option left available to him to get work done. Cute.

    July 17, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6