The recess appointments by President Obama – without Senate confirmation – of three extremely liberal and controversial nominations:
Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board;
Donald Berwick to Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and
Mari Del Carmen Aponte as United States Ambassador to El Salvador
Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution permits a president to make “recess appointments” without Senate confirmation by filling an office when Congress is in recess. Though originally intended to put necessary officials in place during the once long Congressional recesses, in recent times recess appointments have been used primarily to circumvent Senate approval — usually because of ideological controversy surrounding the nominee. As outlined below these three Obama recess appointees represent some of the worst of this administration’s nominees and were unlikely to ever receive Senate approval—even in an overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled Senate.
Craig Becker—A former Associate General Counsel to both the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, Becker supports the “Employee Free Choice Act” (card-check) and “envisions” legislation as a way “to increase government funding.” “We can envision a meeting of employers and unions in the industry in which they agree that they should act cooperatively to increase government funding and to avoid the waste of scarce resources on bitter election campaigns by permitting employees to decide whether to be represented by a union through a card check, knowing exactly what it will mean if they do, and without employer opposition.” (Jonathan Hiatt & Craig Becker, “At Age 70, Should The Wagner Act Be Retired? A Response To Professor Dannin,” Berkley Journal of Employment & Labor Law, 2005).
Obama Used A Recess Appointment To Place Union Boss Lawyer Craig Becker On The National Labor Relations Board, Even Though He Was Rejected By The Senate. “Mr. Becker says he ‘worked with and provided advice’ to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago … one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with ACORN … ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name … ‘For my money, Craig’s signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers …” (Editorial, “Acorn’s Ally At The NLRB,” The Wall Street Journal, 10/15/09).
Donald Berwick—“I am a romantic about the (British) National Health System. I love it.”—July 2008.
Dr. Donald Berwick should be rejected by the Senate because he is a vocal supporter of single-payer health care system and its bureaucratic rationing of medical care, and because of conflicts of interest.
Berwick was initially nominated to the position in April 2010, after Obama left the position unfilled for 455 days. Eighty days later, with no hearing or debate in the Senate, Obama installed Berwick directly by means of recess appointment, circumventing the constitutional confirmation process, in order to avoid a political fight, and in order to conceal the true nature of Dr. Berwick’s controversial background from the American people. An outcry arose because of the recess appointment, leading Obama to again change course and re-nominate Berwick. Dr. Berwick is the wrong person to be the administrator of CMS for the following reasons:
- Dr. Berwick believes in expanding government control over personal medical decisions, and has repeatedly stated that he believes in rationing health care. “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care; the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open,” he said.
- Dr. Berwick believes that the American health care system should not be part of the U.S. market economy. He said, “Please don’t put your faith in market forces. It’s a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can.” Instead, he believes that health care should be used to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. He said “Any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane, must redistribute wealth,” and further that “A progressive policy regime will control and rationalize financing—control supply.”
- Dr. Berwick comes to CMS laden with conflicts of interest. He previously served as CEO of the nonprofit Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI), where he was paid $2.36 million per year in salary. IHI received, during his tenure as CEO, about $40 million per year in grants, fees and contracts from major managed care companies over which he will have jurisdiction and which will receive large sums from CMS, and which will seek to influence boards and panels established by ObamaCare.
- Dr. Berwick’s term will expire at the end of 2011, and either he or somebody else will need to be re-nominated to run CMS. In the meantime, he will exercise immense power presiding over a budget of $800 billion per year – larger than the Pentagon and larger than the GDP of all but 15 countries – will have coverage responsibility for over 100 million people, and a primary role in implementing the president’s vision of health care in America.
Mari Del Carmen Aponte—Aponte withdrew her name as a Clinton nominee to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1994 and Obama apparently did not want to allow full Senate to vote on her in 2010.
On August 19, 2010, Barack Obama made a recess appointment of Maria Del Carmen Aponte to be the U.S. Ambassador to Salvador. This prevented opponents in the Senate, including Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Jim Risch (R-ID), from blocking her nomination after an April 27, 2010, 10-8 party-line vote sent her nomination from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Senate floor.
Of course, Senators DeMint and Risch might have delayed her nomination purely because she is known to hold leftist as opposed to merely liberal foreign policy views. If so, her recess appointment would simply be one of the pack. It is not. Sens. DeMint and Risch held up her nomination because the Obama administration refused to provide frequently requested information such as the FBI reports on her long-term, live-in relationship with Cuban-American Roberto Tamayo who had ongoing ties to the Cuban diplomatic mission to Washington – a mission managed by Cuban intelligence. Further questions surround her refusal to take an FBI lie detector test, a loan she apparently received from Tamayo but never repaid, the statements of a defector from Cuban intelligence that she was a target for recruitment by Cuban intelligence, and her reasons for withdrawing her name as President Clinton’s nominee to be Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.