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Obama Bypasses U.S. Senate, Names Berwick to Medicare Post

Donald Berwick
Donald Berwick is President Barack Obama's choice to run Medicare and Medicaid. Photographer: Richard Chase/Harvard University via Bloomberg

President Barack Obama bypassed the U.S. Senate and appointed Donald Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that administers the health programs for the elderly and low-income Americans.

Obama put Berwick in the job today using a recess appointment, a procedure that lets the president fill positions without Senate confirmation when Congress isn’t meeting. Lawmakers are on a week-long break for the Independence Day holiday.

“It’s unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges, many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes,” Obama said in a statement.

The president also announced recess appointments of Joshua Gotbaum as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and Philip E. Coyle III as associate director for national security and international affairs in the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversee the two government programs that affect more than 100 million poor, elderly and disabled Americans, haven’t had a permanent administrator since October 2006.

Berwick is president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. Obama nominated Berwick for the job in April.


Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Obama for trying to “sneak” Berwick’s nomination through the Senate without “public scrutiny.”

“Apparently the Obama administration intends to arrogantly circumvent the American people yet again,” McConnell, of Kentucky, said in a statement.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement that “there is no better individual than Dr. Berwick to lead the effort to transform our health-care system into one that provides every patient with the best possible care at every interaction.”

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