Republicans demand hearing for Berwick, block other federal nominations

Share this content:
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Republican senators on the Finance Committee, which has oversight of the nomination of Don Berwick for administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, have sent a letter to committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). They insist that Berwick appear at a confirmation hearing “as soon as possible.”

All 10 Republicans on the committee signed the letter, which was sent to Baucus Wednesday. President Obama last week chose to circumvent the Senate confirmation process by giving Berwick a recess appointment. It was a move that irked many conservatives, who had hoped to grill Berwick during a hearing about his views on the British National Health System and comparative effectiveness research.

“The need for Dr. Berwick to be considered in a transparent and deliberative manner is all the more important because the agency will be responsible for numerous and significant changes to federal health programs including the largest Medicaid coverage expansion since the program's creation,” the senators wrote.

The White House had long been concerned that Republicans would block Berwick's nomination. In making its recess appointment, the Obama administration argued that Republicans' obstruction of this candidate would seriously impede the healthcare overhaul at a vital time in the process. Republicans, in their letter, took umbrage at these claims.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding up two federal nominations to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in retaliation against Berwick's recess appointment, Roll Call reported.