Last night, the White House announced that President Obama has decided to make a recess appointment for Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as CMS Administrator.
Dr. Berwick is a pediatrician and professor at Harvard University and the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. He launched the “100,000 Lives” campaign to reduce the number of deaths attributable to medical errors in hospitals. He has previously served as Vice Chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Hospital Association, and Chair of the National Advisory Council of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The Constitution provides an exception to the Senate confirmation process for nominations. When the Senate is in recess, the President may make a temporary appointment known as a “recess appointment” without Senate approval. President Obama is making the appointment during a recess in the middle of a session, so Dr. Berwick’s appointment will expire at the end of the following session or at the end of the first session of the 112th Congress.
President Obama has made 15 recess appointments, not including Dr. Berwick.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), objected to President Obama’s move and noted that confirmation hearings were not scheduled to allow for consideration of the nominee. Senate Finance Committee staff responded that Republicans have urged Leadership to expedite Dr. Berwick’s confirmation hearing and hold it before Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan’s hearing.