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March 05, 2011

Looks Like Obama's Rationier In Chief Is On His Way Out...Eventually

Remember Donald "I love the UK's National Health Service" Berwick? When last we saw him he received a recess appointment to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which basically put him charge of a huge swath of US health care spending (CMS' budget is larger than the Department of Defense).

To keep his job beyond the end of the year* Berwick had to be renominated and confirmed by the Senate. This week 42 of the 47 Republican Senators (more on that below) sent Obama a letter asking that the nomination be withdrawn. In light of that opposition, it looks like the Democrats will be throwing Berwick under the bus at some point.

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.

At a meeting with health care lobbyists Friday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee staffers indicated that the nomination is dead, that there will be no confirmation hearing, and that they'll soon be discussing "next steps" for CMS, sources said.

The Politico story was via Moe Lane who argues this shows what cowards Democrats are.

Berwick will still have 9 months (unless Obama nominates someone new sooner) to do damage but the end is in sight.

As for the 42 Republican Senators who signed the letter...that means 5 didn't. Slu did the homework and figured out who the Final Five were.

Brown, Collins, Snowe, Murkowski, Portman

The first four didn't surprise me but Rob Portman of Ohio did. So, I did a little checking with a Senate GOP source (yes I have one. Just one but I have it) and got this response from Portman's office.

“Ultimately, the President has the right to nominate whomever he wants, but, because of Dr. Berwick’s views, Senator Portman doesn’t plan to confirm him should he be nominated.”

I didn't check to see if Brown, Collins, Snow or Murkowski have a position on Berwick. Unlike Portman, I just wasn't entirely surprised they didn't join the letter.

There was nothing the GOP could do to prevent Berwick's Recess Appointment but they did a good job here of getting rid of him as soon as they could.

If you're looking for more on what Berwick is such a disaster, there's an app, er, website for that.

*Obama could recess appoint Berwick again but he wouldn't get paid (pdf, see page 6) and more to the point, there would be political hell to be paid for it.

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posted by DrewM. at 06:08 PM

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