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Posted at 5:15 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Berwick's demise: A lesson for Obamacare opponents

By Jennifer Rubin

On Friday, Politico reported:

Senate Democrats have given up on confirming Don Berwick as CMS administrator in the wake of a letter from 42 Republican senators opposing the nomination, sources tell Politico.

Citing the GOP letter, a person familiar with the situation said Senate Democrats and the White House "can do the arithmetic" and now see that there's no way for Berwick to get the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.

The White House had to use the recess appointment power to get Berwick in as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, you will recall, because the Democratic Senate majority couldn't bring itself to call for a vote.

James Capretta, former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget and now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had this take: "The truth is that Senate Democrats never really defended Dr. Berwick. They remain fearful of the rationing argument more than anything else, and from that perspective Dr. Berwick is their worst nightmare." Indeed, far from bemoaning the departure of Berwick, "The Senate Democrats look to me more relieved than upset that the nomination is now officially going nowhere," says Capretta.

This should remind Republicans and other opponents of a key point in the Obamacare debate: As much as the argument over Obamacare is about spending, taxes and the deficit, it is also about the quality of care that Americans will receive in a system in which indiscriminate cuts are made without true "reform." Unless there is something other than slashing reimbursement rates, Obamacare will inevitably lead to delay in or denial of care.

The House Budget Committee has already begun hearings on the cost implications of Obamacare, but given the obvious importance of -- and Democrats' sensitivity to -- Obamacare's implications for the quality and availability of care, it would seem advisable to have hearings on this topic as well.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 7, 2011; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Obamacare  
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As pointed out elsewhere, Obama can just recess appoint him again. We'll see.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I doubt Obama will do another recess appointment. Even the Democrats are not defending Berwick. All Obama needs is that problem in the run up to the 2012 elections.

We really need to take a look at who the stupid one is here. Recess reappointment? Now that would be stupid.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 7, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse


As I pointed out to you when you used the whole Cheney quote, Cheney was talking about deficits as an election issue. He was right then. But, it is a different time now, Do you realize Obama's February deficit was larger than Bush's total deficit in 2007.

Do you really believe deficits will not matter in the 2012 election? I don't.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 7, 2011 9:28 PM | Report abuse

gopthestupidparty -

Berwick’s recess appointment was to some not the smoothest move the Obami could have made, even to some supporters, as Ruth Marcus indicated: (
“A cynic might look at the White House explanation -- that it was urgent for CMS, without a confirmed administrator since 2006, to have a leader -- and ask: Then why did you dither for 15 months before nominating someone?”

Obama could reappoint Berwick as head of CMS, but Berwick would probably not be eligible for the salary for the appointment. He could legally continue to serve in the position and would likely be financially able to forego the pay and benefits, with a sly grin. Here’s the background:

//The commission of a recess appointee expires “at the end of [the Senate’s] next session,” whereas the service of a confirmed appointee continues until the end of the term or at the pleasure of the President, subject to the requirements laid out by Congress in creating the position.//

Thus Berwick’s appointment ends December, 2011. Were Obama to reappoint him via another recess appointment, Berwick would not be paid, and would likely not qualify for benefits. (See page 16, Congressional Action, and the pages that follow in the above link.)

Why would Berwick bother continuing to serve at no pay? Because he can, and that may have been the plan. Born in 1946, the guy’s 64 going on 65, founded and was president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a not-for-profit leech that subsisted on grants from who knows where, but did include the federal gummint. He retired / resigned upon his appointment by Obama to head CMS.

Per one source ( ):
“The nonprofit organization [IHI] received $12.2 million in contributions and grants in 2008, the Examiner indicates, and Berwick received $2.3 million that year in compensation. His salary from the organization was $637,006 in 2007 and $585,008 in 2006.”

So his 2008 salary could arguably sustain him for 3.5 years at the lifestyle level he was accustomed to, even if he did not buy store brands, use coupons, or joined Costco or Sam’s. But we don’t know much about his retirement deal, mainly because he did not go through confirmation hearings. Senator Grassley has asked, so far in vain, for details of his IHI deal.

We do know that Berwick, as the Government HealthCare benefits Czar, won’t be bothered by whatever he promulgates because of a provision in his IHI contract that stipulates that Berwick receive, along with his wife, health care insurance coverage paid for by the Institute "from retirement until death."

He’s the perfect guy for the assignment, no?

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 7, 2011 10:21 PM | Report abuse

If the idiot Obama could not get thim through with a super-majority in the Senate, what makes him think he can get him through now.

Impeach Obama.

Posted by: JCM-51 | March 7, 2011 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet donuts to dollars Berwick will resign the post long before December, 2011. Any takers other than Governor Christie?

Posted by: aardunza | March 7, 2011 11:42 PM | Report abuse

So,why hasn't the gutless US Congress got off dead center and ended the Kenyan Wonder
Barack Hussein Obama Dictatorship by his
Impeachment by now? Or,do the Members of our own US Congress want to all join the ever growing ranks of Unemployed come Election Years 2012 and 2014 here or what?
The USA can no longer wait until 2012 to end this Obama Regime,before Comrade Kenyan
Barack Hussein Obama & Team Obama Destroy
the entire USA. Impeach Obama now!

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | March 10, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I love the Comrade Kenyan moniker, Ralphinphnx. Obviously, you're intelligence is superb and you fully understand the process of impeachment. Presidents are impeached for breaking laws, unless they're not when Congress is controlled by the same party (ahem, George and Dick). They are not impeached because you don't like the color of their skin or their policies.

By the way, which is it? Skin color or policies? Please take your racist diatribes and flush them down Rand Paul's toilet.

Posted by: ross1222 | March 10, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The healthcare bill significantly expanded eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that under the bill there would be roughly 16 million more enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP than the number projected under the laws in place before the bill was enacted. According to the CBO, the gross cost of Medicaid and CHIP outlays under the bill will be an estimated $434 billion over ten years.

We are about to drown in Govt accumulated debt. Thanks for killing America Obama, you moron!

Posted by: NO-bama | March 10, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Obama broke the law when he decided to act in contempt of a Fed Judge ruling. Obama broke the law when he decided not to enforce Federal law. All of which are impeachable offenses.

Posted by: NO-bama | March 10, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

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