Today the President is recess appointing Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as Administrator of CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS is responsible for administering more than $740 B of spending each year and will be key to implementing the new health care laws. This is a very important job.
Dr. Berwick runs a foundation, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus and Senator Grassley have for some time been asking Dr. Berwick to disclose the list of donors to his foundation. In the eleven weeks since he was nominated he has not yet done so.
Recess appointments are not quite routine, but they are Constitutional and are an ugly reality of how things sometimes work in Washington. Yet the timing and manner of Dr. Berwick’s recess appointment are clear process fouls by the Obama Administration. In this case the President is using the recess appointment power not to work around a filibuster as claimed, but to avoid disclosing information that is potentially relevant to Dr. Berwick’s service, to avoid an unpleasant reprise of the health care debate, and because it’s convenient for the Administration.