Don Berwick’s recess appointment to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made several of the Sunday shows yesterday. Appearing on both Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week, Administration senior advisor David Axelrod defended the nomination – but did so in a curious fashion. In justifying its recess appointment last Tuesday, the White House claimed that “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the [Berwick] nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.” But yesterday, when Jake Tapper pointed out that Sen. Grassley and others previously asked for a hearing on Dr. Berwick, Axelrod then claimed the real reason for the recess appointment was that OTHER nominees “have had hearings and then have waited months” for a vote.
To give some additional context, when President Bush nominated Kerry Weems – a career CMS civil servant – to head the agency, Democrats refused to allow so much as a nomination hearing to take place, yet President Bush did not grant Mr. Weems a recess appointment.
It’s also worth pointing out that Mr. Axelrod said “The hearing is not the issue” with respect to Dr. Berwick’s nomination. If that’s the case, then when will Democrats schedule a hearing on his nomination for a permanent appointment?
Sen. Kyl also appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss Dr. Berwick, and posed the following question given the nominee’s stated views on rationing and other topics: “Had his nomination come up during the health care debate, can you imagine the hue and cry that would have occurred?”
The ABC transcript can be found here; video can be found here (excerpt on Berwick starts at about 1:05). Video and a transcript of the Fox News Sunday appearances by Axelrod and Sen. Kyl can be found here.