Senate Democrats Abandon Berwick Nomination

Posted: Mar 07, 2011 9:46 AM
Last year, the president used a controversial (and disingenuous) recess appointment to install a leading single-payer healthcare cheerleader as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  President Obama renominated Donald Berwick for the position in January, but Senate Democrats have thrown in the towel and declared the nomination is "dead."  Why?  Because Senate Republicans have made clear they won't budge on the Berwick fight -- a fight Democrats refused to take up even before they lost six senate seats last fall:

At a meeting with health care lobbyists Friday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee staffers indicated that the nomination is dead, that there will be no confirmation hearing, and that they'll soon be discussing "next steps" for CMS, sources said.

In a letter Thursday, 42 GOP senators asked President Barack Obama to withdraw the nomination of Berwick, who received a recess appointment in July and was renominated in January.

Place your bets:  Who were the five Republicans who didn't sign the letter vowing to block this guy?

The reveal:

The letter was signed by every GOP senator except for Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Portman (!) of Ohio.

That exclamation point is all mine.  The Maine twins and their ideological soulmate in Alaska aren't much of a surprise -- nor is Brown, really -- but conservative freshman Rob Portman?  I'll put a line into his office  today to get the scoop.  I can't imagine Portman's soft on socialism.

UPDATE -  As the roster of civility waivers swells, so too does the recipient list of Obamacare waivers:

The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago. Waivers have become a hot-button issue for Republicans, eager to expose any vulnerabilities in the reform law.

1,040 organizations, four states, and counting... 

UPDATE II:  I spoke with Sen. Portman's Press Secretary, Christine Mangi, and she provided the following explanation for her boss' decision not to sign on to the letter:

"The Senator would not have voted to confirm Donald Berwick -- he would have voted no.  He didn't sign the letter because he believes the president has the right to nominate whomever he wants."