Recess appointments Berwick, Becker renominated in new session

Barack Obama spent Tuesday night telling the American people that he understood the midterm message as the electorate demanding that Democrats and Republicans need to work together in the final two years of his term as President.  He spent the rest of the week talking out the other side of his mouth.  The White House announced its slate of appointments for open positions that require Senate confirmation, including two controversial recess appointments, one of which produced bipartisan anger when it was made.  Donald Berwick, who got a recess appointment to run Medicare before the Senate could even hold a confirmation hearing, will be headed for the Senate once again:

On Wednesday night, the White House renominated Dr. Don Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The nomination is likely to be yet another flashpoint in the contentious health-care repeal debate on Capitol Hill. Republicans strongly objected to Berwick’s appointment last year, pointing to his previous comments in support of the British health system and rationing with “eyes open” or closed. …

Berwick is likely to face a difficult nomination. Many Republicans are still angry about his recess appointment and have significant questions about the agency he oversees.

The administration recess-appointed Berwick to the post in July, arguing that Republicans had signaled they would slow-walk or oppose his nomination proceedings. Republicans were likely to oppose the confirmation but welcomed a chance to grill him in a confirmation hearing. The White House made the recess appointment before a hearing was held.

Even some Democrats at the time objected to the recess appointment.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) would have voted to confirm Berwick but slammed the White House for bypassing the Senate entirely.  Berwick hadn’t even filled out the standard questionnaire that forms part of the basis for confirmation hearings, which is why Baucus had yet to schedule a hearing for Berwick.  “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,’’ Baucus said at the time.

Berwick isn’t the only controversial recess appointment that Obama revived, either.  Craig Becker, whose nomination to the National Labor Relations Board got stopped when his confirmation got filibustered almost a year ago and couldn’t even get more than 52 Democrats to support, is also back on the list.  The Workforce Fairness Institute, which is dedicated to fighting Card Check, blasts Obama for his SOTU hypocrisy:

“Less than 24 hours after delivering the State of the Union, which largely focused on jobs and the economy, President Barack Obama already broke his word to workers and small businesses by re-nominating labor radical Craig Becker, a former attorney for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  In his address to the nation, the President stated his administration will ‘fix’ any ‘unnecessary burden[s] on businesses,’ yet one of his first acts following those words is to nominate an individual who is committed to job-killing policies,” said Katie Gage, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).  “In re-nominating Becker, President Obama has sent the message to employers across the country that his rhetoric is just that, and the nation’s chief executive is more concerned with paying back union bosses than turning the economy around.  We will work with small business owners to ensure the Senate once again rejects the Becker nomination in a bipartisan manner.”

There are a few other recess appointments on the list as well:

  • William Boarman, for the apparently so-critical-it-required-a-recess-appointment position of “Public Printer”, recess appointment Dec. 22
  • Matthew Bryza for ambassador to Azerbaijan, recess appointment Dec 22
  • Norman Eisen, ambassador to the Czech Republic, recess appointment Dec. 22
  • Robert Stephenson Ford, ambassador to Syria, recess appointment Dec. 22
  • Francis Ricciardone, ambassador to Turkey, recess appointment Dec 22

Eisen, readers may recall, played a pivotal role in the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin as well as smearing him later.  Ford’s appointment got stalled because of his lack of ability to articulate a policy towards Syria, at least to the Senate.  One name not on the list is James Cole, who got a recess appointment at the same time to be Eric Holder’s deputy AG.  The Boss Emeritus reminded us at the time why Cole’s nomination was doomed, thanks to his downplaying of the 9/11 attacks as essentially the same kind of crime as the drug trade and the Mafia.

The Republican caucus in the Senate should force the withdrawal of the nominations of Berwick, Becker, Eisen, and Ford, but especially Berwick and Eisen.  The arrogant recess appointment of Berwick before the Senate could even ask a single question of him should be a moment for instructing the President that he is not a monarch and that Congress has significant jurisdiction in how agencies conduct their business.  They should also take the opportunity with Eisen’s renomination to interrogate him under oath about the Walpin termination — who ordered it, what the real circumstances were, and Eisen’s role in smearing Walpin.