Controversial CMS Head Unlikely to Retain Position

Published May 31, 2016

Sources indicate Senate Democrats are “giving up” on Donald Berwick, the controversial recess-appointed head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in the wake of the letter signed by 42 Senate Republicans demanding withdrawal of his nomination.

The Republican letter, which was first reported by Health Care News, prompted statements to Politico, a Capitol Hill news organization, from Democratic sources claiming Senate Democrats and the White House “can do the arithmetic”—indicating they do not believe Berwick could obtain the 60 votes needed to pass a filibuster.

Letter Demands Withdrawal

In the letter to President Obama, the 42 Republican Senators cited Berwick’s failure to appear before the Senate for any review prior to his recess appointment in 2010.

“Withdrawing Dr. Berwick’s nomination would be a positive first step in rebuilding the trust of the American people. The occupant of this important position, which affects the health care of so many Americans on a daily basis, requires an individual with the appropriate experience and management ability. Our seniors and those who rely on Medicaid deserve no less,” the Senators wrote.

Berwick’s controversial statements in favor of government rationing of health care have been the subject of multiple floor remarks and statements from Senate Republicans and an ongoing accountability project by The Heartland Institute. He has testified only once before the Senate and once before the House since his recess appointment—both merely brief appearances marked by frustration from committee members at his unwillingness to answer questions.

Re-nomination Unlikely to Matter

Although Berwick has been re-nominated for the position, no hearings have been scheduled regarding his nomination, and at a press conference following the letter’s release, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) indicated to reporters the re-nomination is dead.

“Republicans won,” said Baucus.

Baucus said he expected Republicans to oppose Berwick thoroughly, and he suggested the White House begin considering replacements. Although the White House could decide to recess-appoint Berwick again, he could not be paid for the position because of a 2009 Omnibus Appropriations law.

Benjamin Domenech ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.


Internet Info:


Letter to the President, Senate Republicans:

Don Berwick Online, The Heartland Institute: