Sen. Baucus Won’t Say If Obama’s Controversial Recess-Appointee to Run Medicare Will Get Confirmation Hearing

By Matt Cover | July 22, 2010 | 5:20 PM EDT

( – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would not say whether the recently recess-appointed Dr. Donald Berwick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would ever receive a Senate confirmation hearing in the committee that Baucus oversees, as the Constitution requires.
Berwick has praised Britain’s government-run health care system, said health care rationing is commonplace, and argued that an equitable health funding plan “must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer.”
President Barack Obama nominated Berwick to run the CMS in April. But Baucus never held a hearing on the nomination. Then on July 7, when Congress was away for the July 4 vacation, Obama recess-appointed Berwick to the job.
Obama’s recess appointment circumvented the normal Senate confirmation process, a step that Baucus himself said he was “troubled” by in a July 7 statement.
On Capitol Hill on Thursday, asked Senator Baucus,Why didn’t you schedule a hearing for Dr. Berwick?”
Baucus said, “[Because] the president made a recess appointment.” continued: “Did they [the Obama administration] want a hearing? Did you want a hearing?”
Senator Baucus said, “We will, at the appropriate time, talk to Dr. Berwick to have sufficient oversight of CMS – but at the appropriate time at a later date.”
While Baucus promised an oversight hearing of the agency that Berwick now runs, Baucus did not give any indication of when, if ever, Berwick would receive a confirmation hearing. All 10 Finance Committee Republicans wrote a letter on July 14 requesting that Baucus hold a confirmation hearing on Berwick.
Berwick can have his confirmation hearing at any time because his nomination is still pending, provided that Sen. Baucus schedules it. Should Baucus hold a hearing and Berwick’s nomination fails to pass the committee, however, he will remain at CMS until the end of 2011 or until the Senate confirms someone else.

Dr. Donald Berwick, nominated by President Obama to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is expected to get the job through a recess appointment on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Goodman Media International, Inc.)

Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution says that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.”
In his July 7 statement, Baucus said, "I’m troubled that, rather than going through the standard confirmation process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed. Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered.” asked Sen. Baucus’s office several follow-up questions, including whether the Obama administration had ever wanted a confirmation hearing in the first place for Berwick. Senator Baucus’ office did not respond by press time.