Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 7, 2010

OBAMA CUTS SHORT NONSENSE ON CMS NOMINEE.... Nearly three months ago, President Obama nominated Dr. Don Berwick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- an agency without a permanent administrator since October 2006. The nomination was immediately hailed as a brilliant choice by policy experts from across the ideological spectrum. Senate confirmation should have been painless.

But Senate Republicans are Senate Republicans, and the Berwick nomination became a proxy fight for conservatives to complain about the Affordable Care Act in advance of the midterm elections. Yesterday, the White House decided to cut short the nonsense.

President Obama will bypass Congress and appoint Dr. Donald M. Berwick, a health policy expert, to run Medicare and Medicaid, the White House said Tuesday.

Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said the "recess appointment" was needed to carry out the new health care law. The law calls for huge changes in the two programs, which together insure nearly one-third of all Americans.

Mr. Pfeiffer said the president would appoint Dr. Berwick on Wednesday. Mr. Obama decided to act because "many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," Mr. Pfeiffer said.

As a recess appointee, Berwick would need Senate approval to stay on the job after the current appointment ends late next year.

He'll likely do some very impressive work in the interim. Berwick, considered a visionary by those who've worked with him, is president and co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, works as a scholar at Harvard, and has earned a reputation as a champion of patients and consumers. Families USA Executive Director Ronald Pollack said the recess appointment "augurs well for the implementation of health care reform."

And that's really what this is all about -- implementation of the new law. As Jonathan Cohn explained, "CMS director is always an important job. But it's even more important now, as the Obama administration starts to implement health care reform. Not only must CMS prepare to deliver coverage to millions of new Medicaid recipients. It must also re-engineer Medicare itself, so that it pays for services in ways that foster better, more efficient care. Figuring out how to provide better care for less money is Berwick's specialty, making him, at least on paper, a perfect choice for the job."

Obama needed the CMS to get to work, and just wasn't willing to endure months of inane Republican tactics.

Recess appointments aren't ideal, but GOP abuses have become so common, I'm surprised the presidential power isn't exercised more frequently. As Harold Pollack noted, "This goes to the basic capacity of American government to function well, our ability to find good people, efficiently scrutinize their qualifications and goals, and to put them to work addressing the nation's serious problems."

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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FOr just how trivial the Repubs are willing to get about this, check out this story in the right wing propaganda pages of the Washington Times:

Posted by: martin on July 7, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

The president needs to make a lot more recess appointments to get government working. Last I read there were over 100 offices waiting for leaders.

Posted by: madstork123 on July 7, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

One wonders how long Obama will continue to try to govern and portray himself as "post-partisan," as it continues to be obvious both that Republicans have no interest in participating in governance and that they pay no political price for being seen that way.

Americans dislike "losers" and "wimps" more than they respect "adults." Our politics is at roughly the level of late childhood to early adolescence. Obama needs to start kicking some playground ass.

Posted by: bleh on July 7, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans block administration appointees, but fortunately there's a constitutional remedy in the recess appointment.

Too bad the Constitution doesn't allow 'recess legislation'. Then Obama could just decree another stimulus package, comprehensive immigration reform, and climate change legislation.

Posted by: David Bailey on July 7, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

So why stop with just one?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it will be great to see the new and improved Obama after he completes his "Charles Atlas" course. Mitch might have to find another beach.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 7, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The trouble with the process can be seen in who is participating . Laying down with dogs getting up with flea's , means that when crazies are bent on destroying the American government , where is the discussion ? All of this running out the clock , moving the goalposts , dilation , all part of the republican parties embrace of crazy , provides few flea less opportunities for any productive possibilities imaginable .
The examples are as endless as they are mendacious and tedious . It is a full scale war for the right wing against the traditional American constitutional government , to be replaced with a package deal from KBR , or one Haliburton or another .
Denying government its basic components are part of the propaganda effort to keep the pure clean right wing from having anything to do with the American way of life , which they intend to continue to bring to its third world knees .

Posted by: FRP on July 7, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Recess appointment, wow, that's almost a first for Mr. Bipartisan. Yesterday Reid reposted Angle's old website. Do you think the Democrats are beginning to engage with the Republicans? Did somebody tell them that it is past time they started to fight?

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 7, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Good. More please.

Posted by: terry on July 7, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, over at "Theygaveusarepublic", Blue Girl has another excellent piece, this AM, about Secretary of State Clinton growing stronger on her trek through South Ossentia. Toughness with intelligence is a rare commidity, these days. One of the smartest moves by President Obama was in naming her to that lofty role.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 7, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans block administration appointees, but fortunately there's a constitutional remedy in the recess appointment.

No Republican ever tried to block Berwick's appointment. Heck, Berwick hadn't even filled out his questionnaire, much less even scheduled a hearing.

I have to say, if a Republican did this, I'd be pretty pissed. At least have the nominee fill out the questionnaire and have a hearing before giving him a recess appointment.

Posted by: Da Pup on July 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

I agree Berwick should fill out the questionnaire, and perhaps have a hearing, but it's my understanding that the Republicans will not allow the nomination to come to the floor. If this were not so, why would a recess appointment be necessary? I'm sure it's not something so simple as, "well, we're awfully busy today with other business, I don't see how we could get to it right away" necessitating a recess appointment. The nomination has been stalled for 3 months. Recess appointments are not for situations where you just can't get it on the calendar; they're for deliberate opposition.

There's a world of difference between a recess appointment of Berwick to a job for which he is eminently qualified and enthusiastic about getting to it, and a recess appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. as a spoiler and deal-breaker.

Posted by: Mark on July 7, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Recess appointments were originally for reasons more closely associated with the time it took to travel to and from home and congress .
That is what I understand of the why they were employed .
Now they are used to either overcome republican stalling or democrats attempting to make an issue of the small matter of , out of his mind "Ambassador" mustache , aka , Bolton .

Posted by: FRP on July 7, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

@Ron: what do you mean almost a first? I think he's done more than a dozen of these.

Posted by: Alli on July 7, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should have used the recess appointment many times more than he has.

Posted by: MlJohnston on July 7, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know how many recess appointments Bush did during this same period in his first term?

Posted by: bcinaz on July 7, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

He makes recess appointments of nominees he knows repubs would approve anyway except for their game playing.

If only he would have made a recess appointment of Dawn Johnsen to OLC. That would have taken more balls than just bypassing the repub game playing. It would have taken conviction. Stimulus style conviction.

Fix the broken senate. Limit the number of filibusters or allow them only to be used for SC nominees...or get rid of them all together...or give them a time frame to allow more deliberation and public debate but eventually ending. No one envisioned the senate to operate the way it currently does and we all suffer from it. So fix the broken senate 1st.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 7, 2010 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Good move. Day after day, Republicans demonstrate that they won't participate in government under a Democratic administration.

This appointment simply acknowledges that fact and says, 'fine, but I'm not going to let you stand in the way of progress.'

Posted by: beep52 on July 7, 2010 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK



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