Lawmakers Unload on Medicare Head

Nov 17, 2010 1:16pm

ABC’s Brian Hartman Reports:

Republicans unloaded their pent up frustrations on Dr. Don Berwick today in his first appearance before Congress since taking charge of Medicare and Medicaid.

“This is pathetic,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, groused at today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Hatch expressed the recurring complaints of Republicans that President Obama never should have put Berwick in charge of an agency that gets more money than the Pentagon without first sending him to Capitol Hill for even a confirmation hearing before this “doggone important committee.”

Just three months after nominating him, President Obama used a recess appointment this summer to put Berwick in his post while the Senate was on break.

Hatch said his constituents were “outraged” by Berwick’s recess appointment and he complained today’s hearing was too brief to cover the vastness of Republican health care concerns.

“On November 2 the American people issued a clarion call for more transparency and responsiveness out of Washington,” Hatch said. “Obviously asking us to cover all our concerns in this hour-long hearing with only five minutes per side, per person, is like asking us to drain the Pacific Ocean with a thimble. This cannot simply be a check the box exercise.”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning scolded Berwick.

“Your recess appointment was an end-run around Congress,” Bunning said. “I can assure you you won’t receive special treatment next year… I expect you’ll be spending a lot of time before the House of Representatives.”

Republicans take control of the House in January. At a minimum, they promise to run Berwick and other Obama administration officials through a series of tough hearings. But there’s also a move afoot to repeal the new health care law.

Berwick said that would be a “terrible” outcome.

“I can’t think of a worse plan than repealing this law.”

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