July 14,2010

Finance Committee Republicans Seek Hearing on Berwick

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, and the rest of committee Republicans today asked the committee chairman to hold a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick.  The President recess-appointed Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service before the Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination.  Grassley had asked for a hearing two weeks before the recess appointment.

The recess appointment is the second time in the last several months that the President recess-appointed a major nominee prior to the Finance Committee holding its routine nomination hearing.  In March, the President recess-appointed Alan Bersin as commissioner of Customs and Border Control, to the disapproval of Grassley and others. The chairman convened a hearing after the recess appointment. 

“It would be consistent to do the same thing here,” Grassley said.  “Nominees to lead major government agencies should be subject to at least the level of accountability and transparency that a nomination hearing offers.”

The text of the letter with signatures is available here.  The text follows here.

July 14, 2010

Senator Max Baucus
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
219 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC

Dear Chairman Baucus:

We write regarding the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This appointment is subject to Senate confirmation under Article II, Section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution. Dr. Berwick’s nomination has been referred to our Committee pursuant to its jurisdiction over the health programs under the Social Security Act for which the CMS administrator has direct responsibility and jurisdiction over the nomination itself.

The President nominated Dr. Berwick on April 19, 2010, and his nomination has been undergoing the committee’s usual and routine bipartisan nomination investigation and review process.  That process had in fact proceeded to the point where a hearing had been recommended for the week of June 21 and, to our knowledge, no member of the committee had objected to the hearing. Unfortunately, the President circumvented the nomination process last week by using his authority to recess appoint Dr. Berwick to the position.  We very much wanted to proceed with that hearing and are concerned about any implications that we were in any way trying to prevent that hearing from occurring.

To that end, we would request that the Committee call a hearing as soon as possible so that the President's recess appointment does not result in circumventing the open public review that should take place for a nomination of such importance. The need for Dr. Berwick to be considered in a transparent and deliberative manner is all the more important because the agency will be responsible for numerous and significant changes to federal health programs including the largest Medicaid coverage expansion since the program’s creation.  Furthermore, this recess appointment will have imposed an injustice on Dr. Berwick himself if it results in preventing him from being able to answer the legitimate questions raised about his nomination.  If he is not provided opportunity to present his qualifications for the position in the usual process, it casts a shadow over his legitimacy and authority to serve as Administrator during a critical time for CMS.

We appreciate your consideration of this matter and appreciate your public statements concerning this recess appointment. The most obvious solution to this situation is to call on Dr. Berwick to testify before the Committee as soon as possible. We hope that you will give our request to do so positive consideration.