Americans Deserve to Hear How Donald Berwick Would Ration Medicare

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 12, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Americans Deserve to Hear How Donald Berwick Would Ration Medicare

by Mitch McConnell
July 12, 2010 Note: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Monday regarding the recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick. McConnell is a pro-life member of the U.S. Senate representing Kentucky.

“Ordinarily, Senators come to the floor to talk about the things that happen in Washington while we’re here. Today I’d like to talk about something that happened last week while we weren’t here. I’m referring, of course, to the President’s outrageous decision to take advantage of Congress’s absence last week to sneak Donald Berwick in as the new head of Medicare and Medicaid.

“As is well known, Congress has a constitutional duty to examine presidential nominees like Dr. Berwick. But apparently, the prospect of giving the American people an opportunity to hear this nominee defend his past praise for government-run systems that ration health care was worrisome enough for the administration that it sought to ignore congressional oversight altogether.

“As it turned out, the administration’s plan backfired — because even Democrats are outraged at this blatant attempt to prevent the American people from hearing this man talk about what he plans to do with Medicare and Medicaid. As usual, the administration wants to blame Republicans for its own failures. But in this case, the administration’s failure to respect the right of the American people to study Dr. Berwick’s record is being criticized by just about everyone, including the Democrat chairman of the committee in charge of reviewing his nomination.

“Here’s what Chairman Baucus said shortly after the appointment was made:

`Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee, and answered.’

“So despite what the administration would like people to think, this recess appointment had nothing whatsoever to do with Republicans. The fact is, Republicans were looking forward to this debate. We welcomed this hearing. And anyone who looks at the facts knows any suggestion to the contrary is nonsense. So the charge is laughable.

“This appointment had everything to do with the administration’s fear of letting Americans hear Dr. Berwick’s well-known views about government-run care and about how he plans to implement the President’s plan to cut a half trillion dollars from Medicare while limiting the choices seniors now enjoy.

“And here’s the irony in all this: in an attempt to silence debate about Dr. Berwick and its own plans for health care, this nomination has only reignited the debate over the Democrat health care plan. By recess appointing a man who has sung the praises of the government-run British health care service, the administration is only inviting Americans to ask more questions about its own plans.

“I would’ve thought that anyone would be able to understand the significance of getting answers from an avowed admirer of rationed care before putting him in charge of implementing this administration’s $500 billion Medicare cut.

“But by denying the American people an opportunity to hear Dr. Berwick defend his past statements and his future plans, the administration is now forcing the Democrats who voted for the Democrat health care plan to defend Dr. Berwick and his views themselves. The administration may have shielded this nominee temporarily, but it has only exposed Democrats in Congress who voted for this bill and everything that follows from it — including this outrageous appointment.

“This appointment is just the latest evidence of how little the administration has concerned itself with the views of the public. When a majority of Americans and an overwhelming majority of Kentuckians opposed its health care plan, they cut deals with Democrat senators to squeeze it through Congress. Now they’re not even bothering with Congress: they’re just unilaterally installing people like Don Berwick to take charge of its plan for half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts.

“This has been the administration’s approach all along: go around the American people, and now go around Congress. The administration can try to blame Republicans for a debate they don’t want to have. But by denying Congress the ability to scrutinize this nominee, it only raises Americans’ suspicions about its health care plan and increases the burden on Democrats who supported it.

“Back in March, Speaker Pelosi remarked that we’d have to pass the health care bill to find out what’s in it. This nomination is part of the same arrogant approach. The same administration that forced this bill on an unwilling public has now forced Don Berwick onto anyone with Medicare and Medicaid. And now Democrats who voted for this bill will have to answer for his statements and views.”


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