Dems Delay in Berwick Hearing - Why They Don't Want Him To Answer Questions About Universal Health Care

Republican Senator Challenges Medicare Director Who Called for Redistribrution Wealth on His Recess Appointment

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
By Matt Cover  h/t CNS News

Donald Berwick
 (CNSNews.com) - Donald Berwick, President Obama’s Medicare and Medicaid administrator, told a Senate panel Wednesday that he accepted his recess appointment because he "wanted to serve his country," regardless of the controversy surrounding his appointment.

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky asked Berwick why he accepted the appointment when his original nomination never came up for a vote in the Senate.

Because "the President asked me," Berwick responded. He noted that he didn't have a choice in how he was appointed, and he said he took the opportunity that was presented to him.

As head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Berwick is responsible for implementing the portions of President Obama’s health care overhaul that apply to those programs.

But a number of Republicans have expressed dismay that such power should go to a man who never received a Senate hearing on his qualifications.

Among other concerns, Berwick has praised Britain's government-controlled health care system, comparing it favorably to what's available in the U.S. In a July 2008 speech in England, Berwick said 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 less fortunate."

On Wednesday, Bunning told Berwick that he would receive "open and transparent" oversight by the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Bunning also said Berwick would receive "no special treatment" from Congressional Republicans.

Berwick’s recess appointment expires at the end of 2011.

Bunning noted that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would not commit to holding additional hearings for Berwick. Baucus told his Republican colleagues that additional hearings would take place, but he refused to say when.

Berwick, in his first testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, was discussing the impact of the health care law on Medicare and Medicaid.

But Bunning accused his Democratic colleagues of wasting time during Wednesday’s hearing by spending upwards of 30 minutes reading prepared opening statements, thereby taking up time that could have been used to ask Berwick questions.

The complaint about time-wasting was echoed earlier in the hearing by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

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