Republicans Feign Outrage Over Berwick Appointment

July 07, 2010 1:00 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Senate Republicans are up in arms over President Obama's decision to recess appoint Dr. Don Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Berwick was nominated to one of the most important positions in the nation's health care infrastructure almost three months ago, but as Steve Benen notes, his nomination "became a proxy fight for conservatives to complain about the Affordable Care Act in advance of the midterm elections."  The president's decision to sidestep Republican obstruction via a recess appointment was necessary to ensure that health care reform is effectively implemented.  And that's why Republicans are so upset.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "Democrats haven't scheduled so much as a committee hearing for Donald Berwick but the mere possibility of allowing the American people the opportunity to hear what he intends to do with their health care is evidently reason enough for this Administration to sneak him through without public scrutiny."

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): "Dr. Berwick is a self-professed supporter of rationing health care and he won't even have to explain his views to the American people in a congressional hearing. Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent."

McConnell's statement can't possibly get more dishonest.  Under his leadership, Republicans have, as a matter of routine, refused to look at the substance of the president's nominees.  They've stalled confirmations for months, often for no apparent reason and sometimes over parochial earmarks wholly unrelated to the position at hand. The public scrutiny McConnell is calling for would have been productive, but as Jonathan Cohn reminds us, "it's hard to have a serious conversation when one of the two political parties refuses to be serious."

Barrasso, too, is grasping at straws.  The rationing argument sells well among conservatives who don't understand that the private insurance companies they shill for operate exclusively by rationing care.  The fewer procedures insurance companies cover and the more beneficiaries they knock off their rolls, the higher their profit margin.  For example, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported several months ago, insurance giant WellPoint specifically evaluated employees based on how much money they saved the company by retroactively cancelling policies.

Barrasso and his Republican colleagues are the biggest supporter of limiting health care.  The difference is that they choose to sanctify the process by calling it a "free-market" solution.