2 Senate hopefuls assail Medicare pick

The Republicans who want to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate are criticizing the recess appointment of the new head of Medicare and Medicaid.

Ken Buck and Jane Norton both questioned the appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to be the administrator of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and they assailed President Barack Obama for appointing Berwick while Congress is in recess, without an advise-and-consent hearing in the Senate.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., whose seat is up for grabs in November, supported the appointment, which ends with a new Congress in January.

“You would think that Michael Bennet would be pounding down the door at the White House urging the president not to make this recess appointment behind the back of the Senate,” Buck said in a statement. “But he is not doing that. Once again he is just rubber stamping President Obama’s move, standing mute as the president bypasses Senate confirmation.”

The Democrat majority in Congress “broke the rules to pass Obamacare, and now they’re breaking the rules to put Dr. Berwick in charge of Medicaid and Medicare,” Norton said in a statement. “The American people deserve to hear his views and his policies.”

Presidents frequently use recess appointments to place controversial appointees in without Senate action. President George W. Bush installed John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations with a recess appointment, one of 171 such appointments. The center Berwick now heads was without an administrator since 2006, Bennet’s office said.

The Obama administration has 180 nominees pending before the Senate, and Obama has made 18 recess appointments, Bennet’s office said.

Bennet is a frequent critic of politics-as-usual approaches in the Senate and has authored legislation aimed at eliminating Senate traditions such as anonymous holds on appointment.

Bennet’s office said in a statement his “strong preference” is the traditional process, “but unfortunately, some see the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent as an excuse to delay and obstruct.”

In any case, Bennet urged the Senate eventually to conduct an up-or-down vote, his Washington, D.C., office said.

Buck characterized Bennet, however, as a mute follower of President Obama, saying it wasn’t good for Coloradans “who expect their senator to represent their interests on major appointments, not the political interest of the White House.”

Now, Norton’s campaign said, not only will Obamacare have to be repealed, the president’s appointment will have to be rejected.

No reaction was immediately available from Andrew Romanoff, the former Colorado House speaker who is challenging Bennet in the primary.


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