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. Ron

    Yeah, that could be Pat. But, I like to think he chose Independence Day to signify his (our) independence from the party of "no". Great move, Mr. President! Make more appoints when these bums are out of town. Maybe, they'll stick around and conduct the business they were elected to do! Now, there's a novel idea: do your job or the president will work around you.

    July 17, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  2. snow

    I still find it hard to believe that any intelligent person could have voted for that bonehead nobummer. He is either "very stupid" or is devoting his energy to destroying this country. Take your pick, its either one or the other.

    July 17, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  3. Sticky G

    Wah! Wah! The president is trying to keep the government running in spite of our monolithic and unreasoned obstructionism! Wah! Wah! We're going to pretend the many times Bush did this never happened! Wah! Wah! I'm predicting armageddon as a result of this appointment, just like republicans have predicted armageddon as a result of everything done by President Obama! Come on senator, take a deep breath and look around. The world has not ended as you predicted and we have made huge strides in repairing the damage done by the previous 8 years of republican rule. For once set aside your hatred of the president and do what is best for the country.

    July 17, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. Ron

    Wish I could get one of those paid "recesses" and full retirement after only six years on the job! I wonder how much we would save if John Boener recommended Congress get retirement pay at age 70, like he's recommending for the rest of us? For the rest of us who lose our jobs, we take our 401K with us and find another one...or join the ranks of the unemployed. Congress gets a nice cushy paycheck for life. Time to save som e money on that retirement plan???

    July 17, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  5. KathyC in Minnesota

    I find this Senator's attack rediulious being that the Senate is still holding up appointments made by President Obama made in 2009.

    July 17, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. bill

    Conressman Roberts must have a short memory because George Bush made recess appointments when he was in office.

    But oh! I forgot. Republican presidents can do things that Democratic presidents cannot.

    July 17, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  7. JT

    He has to do everything back handed because he has only the worst planned for the USA. He bad mouths the republicans as the party of no....that's ironic as they are never allowed any imnput on anything anyway...he gets every bill passed that he wants, except the jobs bill....now isn;t it strange he couldn't back door that one? Then he couldn't blame the repub for voting against it...the 2400 page pork laden POS just like him. Look up writ quo warranto and then send Jan Brewer, Gov of AZ and ask her to ask for a writ requiring this fraud to produce his birth certtificate not some hospital generated nothing that my klids school won;t even accept for them to use as a birth certificate....we have been snookered...time to re-rack. Berwick is another Harvard buddy that he loves....he has to go and all of his appointees with him.....and if they use the writ...he's fired, and everyone he has brought along is fired as well.

    July 17, 2010 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. Nothing New Here

    Dang – just when Obama thought up a new tactic never ever done before in history – a recess appointment – good thing the repukes caught him!! I would have been worried that the dems were doing something truly unorthodox!

    July 17, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  9. Abraham Lincoln

    I trust no one from Kansas. This is the state that gave us Fred Phelps and attempted to ban the teaching of evolution. Bunch of absolute crazies.

    July 17, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. John from Brooklyn

    Two thoughts...

    1) Where was Roberts when George Bush appointed parades of appointees durin recesses....or is it OK for Republicans to "avoid the Constitution"?

    2) Roberts and his colleagues could have easily avoided this by simply not going on recess, and actually stayed in town and continued doing their work....kinda like most of us do. After all, we're in an economic crisis and we have two wars going on.

    July 17, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. billybob 'n NC

    Is there anyone other than Robert's family who gives a dam* what he says. BTW, who is Roberts?

    July 17, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  12. George

    Obama was just tired of waiting for the Senate to confirm his appointment. The GOP has been holding it up for too long and Medicare needs to be dealt with, whether the Obama haters like it or not. They're acting like he's the first president to do it or that no Republican president has ever done so. Such "outrage" is laughable.

    July 17, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  13. redwhiteblue

    This sounds strange to have such criticism over a recess appointment. The Dems must have learned this trick from former president George Bush because he did it often.

    July 17, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Tori

    Nice try, I'm sure the sheep will gobble up every one of his contrived words. Scare tactics, collective stalling, and selective amnesia at it's best.

    July 17, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. Michael Donovan

    Dear Senator Roberts:

    This is the person who the President wants in that position, and I, as do others in America, like the President's policies. Therefore, I am satisfied.

    You do not, which is ok. However, given the obstructionist attitude of your party during the last two years, I do not blame the President acting as he did.

    Get over the "socialist" claims and stop the fear tactics. They are childish.

    July 17, 2010 09:59 am at 9:59 am |

    He thinks he is God. There is no place for this kind of individual sitting in the Oval Office. impeach him now before he can do more harm. He is the Chief among a party of fools. Yeah he chose the date for this very reason. He does not represent the people. Only his people. The Muslims, Al Qaeda, Illegals and anyone from the nation he came from. And that was not from the rear of a Lioness. More so from a jackal.

    July 17, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. larry

    It would be wonderful if President Obama could bypass republicans on every appointment and issue. Let's make it happen in November.

    July 17, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. TheTraveler

    Blah, blah, blah... So what? Look, if he hadn't made the appointment, we would have been deadlocked for months (at least) in the process of confirming someone for the position.

    I imagine the GOP would have been more than happy to drag their feet, as they often do these days, and set up obstacle after obstacle to slow the appointment process. Meanwhile, the health care plan isn't realized and millions of Americans go without health care. Not that the GOP give a damn about that...

    That's why the President has the ability to make appointments without the approval of Congress, to avoid just this situation and move forward.

    So, Pat "Doom and Gloom" Roberts, unless you and your GOP cronies have a better solution, then get over it ...

    July 17, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  19. John N Florida

    "Unfortunately, the British system rations care to contain costs,” said Roberts.
    And Blue Cross doesn't?
    The American System not only rations care, it systematically cut off coverage to contain costs.
    The MLR and their stock portfolio was/is the ONLY thing the Insurance Companies, collectively, care about.
    From 1993 until 2008, the MLR was driven down from 93% to 80% or less. The companies were profitable at the 93% figure. The 13% reduction was used to fatten already overcompensated CEOs.
    The new law only requires that the companies achieve an 85% MLR.
    We should demand a return to the 93% number.

    July 17, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  20. Michael

    Blab Blab Blab........

    Another useless republican criticizing President Obama.

    Republican presidents and repubican policies are responsible for the economic crash that working americans have to deal with right now.
    Junior bush made at least 46 recess appointments during his failed presidency.

    Republican blowhards like roberts should shut the hell up, step aside, and let Obama fix the problems that their republican buddies created.

    July 17, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  21. Paulo

    Is there a health care entity on Earth that does NOT ration healthcare to cut costs? It looks like Roberts is trying to resurrect the dishonest "death panel". Give me a break.

    July 17, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. Mike

    I'm confused. Do republicans want to spend more on Medicare, or less? Do they want to have higher health care costs, or lower? Is this more about the fact that Obama did not ask their opinion on this appointment (I'm sure that is Baucus's issue) and therefore took the power out of their hands, or that this was a bad appointment.

    Having a confirmation on this appointment that is rife with political posturing and PR would seem like a terrible waste of time, and not exactly the "public forum" that Pat Roberts suggests. How many people in Kansas really believe that the public opinion is communicated in a confirmation hearing? A political opinion is communicated, and it's a wonderful forum for blocking progress, stopping any momentum, and making a statement against the current administration. It's a farce, and I applaud Obama for moving forward.

    July 17, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. Get with the program

    gee, if you GOP obstructionists hadn't made a pact to block everything Obama tries to do, maybe he wouldn't have to do things like this. Jerkbutt.


    July 17, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  24. Bob

    I too am troubled that the President used a recess appointment, but not for the same reasons as Sen. Roberts. I am concerned because the rules allow the minority party in Congress to deny hearings to approve or disapprove the Presidents nominees to these very important positions. It is appalling that the minority party can hijack the process in such a way. This is a problem that has been plaguing our government for many years (going back at least as far as the first Bush admin.) and must be fixed.

    July 17, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  25. will

    i voted for Obama because w. did this same type of crap. no sense being partisen, both sides do this stuff. A way around the checks and balances.

    July 17, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
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