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Baucus Won’t Release Plans Yet on Berwick Hearing Schedule

by Benjamin Domenech on February 23, 2011

When Don Berwick was appointed to head CMS during a recess, bypassing the Senate nomination process, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) openly criticized the White House for not allowing for hearings on the nomination to occur.

Yet now that the White House has renominated Berwick for the position, Baucus is reluctant to say when he will hold hearings to reconsider the CMS head.

“I haven’t decided yet,” [Baucus] told POLITICO on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama renominated Berwick to the post last month. Berwick received a recess appointment in July after senators failed to act on his nomination amid fierce Republican opposition.

If he is not confirmed, he will have to leave the post at the end of the year. But Republicans are still angry over the recess appointment, and there’s no sign any of them have changed their minds about him. Meanwhile, the GOP has bolstered its ranks in the Senate since last year.

According to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking member on the committee, a confirmation hearing might not even happen. Perhaps after seeing Berwick’s show on the House side on February 10th, Hatch thinks people would just see more of dodging and weaving?

“I don’t really expect one to happen, but it could happen,” [Hatch] told POLITICO. “I don’t think there’s the support for him, I’ll put it that way. So I question whether they should have a hearing. [It’s] a waste of the committee’s time.”

While this may not have been Hatch’s intent, this will certainly raise questions whether Berwick will last beyond the current year. The administration has already overruled Berwick on a number of points. and it’s possible the renomination is just an attempt by the White House to suggest support where there is in fact little.

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