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Public Statements

Recess Appointment Of Donald Berwick

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, ordinarily Senators come to the floor to talk about the things that happen in Washington while we are here. Today I wish to talk about something that happened last week while we were not here. I am referring, of course, to the President's truly outrageous decision to take advantage of Congress's absence last week to sneak Donald Berwick in as the new head of Medicare and Medicaid.

As is well known, Congress has a constitutional duty to examine Presidential nominees such as Dr. Berwick. But apparently the prospect of giving the American people an opportunity to hear this nominee defend his past praise for government-run systems that ration health care was worrisome enough for the administration that it sought to ignore congressional oversight altogether.

As it turned out, the administration's plan backfired because even Democrats are outraged at this blatant attempt to prevent the American people from hearing this man talk about what he plans to do with Medicare and Medicaid. As usual, the administration wants to blame Republicans for its failures. But in this case, the administration's failure to respect the right of the American people to study Dr. Berwick's record is being criticized by just about everyone, including the Democratic chairman of the committee in charge of reviewing his nomination.

Here is what Chairman Baucus said shortly after the appointment was made. Senator Baucus said:

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.

So despite what the administration wants people to think, this recess appointment had nothing whatsoever to do with Republicans. The fact is, Republicans were looking forward to the debate. We welcomed the hearing on Dr. Berwick, and anyone who looks at the facts knows any suggestion to the contrary is utter nonsense. So the charge is laughable.

This appointment had everything to do with the administration's fear of letting Americans hear Dr. Berwick's well-known views about government-run care and about how he plans to implement the President's plan to cut $ 1/2 trillion from Medicare while limiting the choices seniors now enjoy.

Here is the irony in all of this: In an attempt to silence debate about Dr. Berwick and its own plans for health care, this nomination has only reignited the debate over the Democratic health care plan. By recess appointing a man who has sung the praises of the government-run British health care service, the administration is only inviting Americans to ask more questions about its own plans.

I would have thought that anyone would be able to understand the significance of getting answers from an avowed admirer of rationed care before putting him in charge of implementing this administration's $500 billion Medicare cut.

But by denying the American people an opportunity to hear Dr. Berwick defend his past statements and his future plans, the administration is now forcing the Democrats who voted for the Democratic health care plan to defend Dr. Berwick and his views themselves. The administration may have shielded this nominee temporarily, but it has only exposed Democrats in Congress who voted for this bill and everything that follows from it--including this truly outrageous appointment.

This appointment is the latest evidence of how little the administration has concerned itself with the views of the public. When a majority of Americans and an overwhelming majority of Kentuckians opposed its health care plan, they cut deals with Democratic Senators to squeeze it through Congress. Now they are not even bothering with Congress. They are unilaterally installing people such as Dr. Berwick to take charge of its plan for $ 1/2 trillion in Medicare cuts.

This has been the administration's approach all along: Go around the American people, and now go around Congress. The administration can try to blame Republicans for a debate they do not want to have. But by denying Congress the ability to scrutinize this nominee, it only raises Americans' suspicions about its health care plan and increases the burden on Democrats who supported it.

Back in March, Speaker Pelosi remarked that we would have to pass the health care bill to find out what is in it. This nomination is part of the same arrogant approach. The same administration that forced this bill on an unwilling public has now forced Don Berwick on to anyone with Medicare and Medicaid. Now Democrats who voted for this bill will have to answer for his statements and for his views.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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