As newly sworn-in CMS chief Don Berwick was unveiling the new meaningful use regulations for health information technology this morning, Republican Senators took to the Senate floor to condemn his recess appointment. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), John McCain (R-AZ), and John Thune (R-SD) engaged in a 30 minute colloquy to blast the President for appointing Berwick ahead of his confirmation hearings. McCain even wondered, “what was the hurry? … There’s going to be another recess in August. There’s going to be another recess after — in October after — unless we go out for elections. But yet in their zeal and haste, they had to do it just over the 4th of July recess!”
The GOP regurgitated what McCain called Berwick’s “greatest rhetorical hits,” argued that Berwick’s nomination exposed the administration’s stealth agenda to ration care and tried to link Berwick to the familiar “czars” narrative:
— MCCAIN: “And I must admit that both Republican and Democrat administrations have abused the recess process — recess appointment process. Yes, they have abused it. But I must say, this takes it to a new high, or low, depending on which way you view it. We have now seen in this administration the appointment of various czars, people given responsibilities over vast areas of government as “czars.” They’ve got more czars than the Romanovs.
— BARRASSO: I believe the President of the United States now has what he wants, his health care rationing czar….but that’s what we have now. We have a president — a president-appointed czar, essentially a czar to ration health care. It’s not what the American people want.
Watch a compilation:
Barrasso insisted that Berwick would “redistribute wealth” and implied that supporters of Berwick were against the American people:
BARRSSO: It was interesting yesterday on this floor, someone on the other side of the aisle stood up and said, if you’re against Dr. Berwick, then whose side are you on?… I’m on the side of the American people, the American people who are concerned about $500 billion of cuts to their Medicare. I’m on the side of the people who believe we should not redistribute wealth in this country.
Taking Barrasso’s argument to its logical conclusion would also lead one to believe that the nation’s hospitals and doctors are also anti-American. The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and a host of other provider groups praised Berwick, predicting that he “will bring a wealth of knowledge and practical experience to CMS from his perspective as a physician, teacher and passionate advocate for high-quality care.” Berwick’s “experiences from his lifelong quest to find better and safer ways to deliver care will greatly inform and enhance the implementation [of] healthcare reform,” the groups wrote in letter to the Senate Finance Committee.
The group’s praised Berwick’s conception of patient [notice, not government] — centered medicine, in which “the needs and wants of the patient should come first.” For more on this approach and how it differs from Barrasso’s description, click over to Maggie Mahar’s comprehensive post here.
The GOP is growing increasingly unhinged over the recess appointment. Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) agreed with a radio host’s description Of Berwick as “chairman of the Obamacare death panel.”