White House: It Was 'Vitally Important' to Appoint Wealth-Redistribution Advocate to Run Medicare Even Without Confirmation Hearing or Senate Vote

By Nicholas Ballasy | July 12, 2010 | 6:46 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) -- White House senior adviser David Axelrod said it was “very clear” that President Barack Obama’s nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was going to be “dragged on and on” by Republicans, and with the “challenges” facing America’s health care system, it was “vitally important that we fill this position” without a Senate confirmation hearing.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat whose party controls the Senate with two Independents 59-to-41, did not schedule a hearing for Berwick although he was nominated by Obama on Apr. 19. Also, the scheduling of a Senate floor vote on the nomination was at the discretion of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), and he did not schedule one.

On Sunday’s edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace interviewed Axelrod, asking, “Mr. Axelrod, the fact is, as you well know, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee had not even scheduled a confirmation hearing on Berwick, even though his nomination was announced several months ago.”

Axelrod said, “Chris, let's look at the history of what's happened during this administration. We have 140 or more appointees who are still waiting for confirmation for months and months and months and months. Some have had hearings. Some have not had hearings.”

He continued, “Even after hearings, we've had months of delay on the floor where we've had to invoke cloture against filibusters by Republicans.”

Later in the interview, Wallace said, “You hadn't even finished the paperwork on this fellow [Berwick].”

Axelrod responded, “It is very, very clear that this nomination -- and this has been signaled by folks on the other side of the aisle -- that this nomination was going to be one that was going to be dragged on and on and on. And with all the challenges facing our health care system, it is vitally important that we fill this position -- and so we moved forward.”

In a report he wrote, A Transatlantic Review of the NHS at 60, which was published on July 26, 2008, Berwick said: “Cynics beware: I am romantic about the National Health Service; I love it.”
Wallace asked Axelrod for his reaction to Berwick’s statement.

“The fact is that you pulled quotes out of longer pieces,” said Axelrod. “He was also quite critical of elements of the British system. And when he was talking about rationing – he was quite critical of aspects of the British system. He is not coming to implement the British system.”

Dr. Donald Berwick made other controversial statements in a July 1, 2008 speech honoring the 60th anniversary of Britain’s National Health Service.

He said: “You could have protected the wealthy and the well, instead of recognizing that sick people tend to be poorer and that poor people tend to be sicker. And that any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must – must -- redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional. Britain, you chose well.”

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