Obama Appoints Health Official, Avoids Senate Confirmation

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Berwick. Photo: Richard Chase/Harvard University, via Bloomberg News

The president will be bypassing Congress to appoint health-policy expert Donald M. Berwick as the chief of Medicare and Medicaid, the White House said Tuesday. Obama moved forward with the "recess appointment" because, according to White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, “many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.” Berwick will have all the powers of a permanent appointee, though his term will expire at the end of the next session of Congress in late 2011.

The appointment is seen as somewhat surprising considering the Senate is in recess for a short period of time (less than two weeks) and senators were still waiting for him to respond to their requests for information. As the Times puts it, “Although hospital executives who have worked with Dr. Berwick describe him as a visionary, inspiring leader, he would have faced a long, difficult struggle to win Senate confirmation.”

Obama to Bypass Senate to Name Health Official [NYT]