From the beginning, the Obama administration has been big on appointing leftist “czars.” The first wave of them was appalling but probably not terribly consequential (e.g., Van Jones, czar of “pie in the sky,” or whatever).
Now, however, Obama has placed czars in top positions at the commanding heights of our economy. Specifically, he has bypassed the Senate confirmation procedure by (1) installing Don Berwick, via recess appointment, as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and (2) making Elizabeth Warren a “special adviser” so she can create and oversee the new consumer financial protection bureau.
Berwick has become, in effect, the czar of Medicare and Medicaid, running a bureaucracy whose budget is larger than the Defense Department’s. He is an advocate of health care rationing (though he has tried recently to walk away from that position) and an opponent of patient choice, enabled by competition among providers.
Warren is set to become, in effect, the czar of the financial industry, with the power to write and enforce rules governing credit cards, mortgages and other such loans. She is, in the words of the Washington Post, “adored by liberals and consumer advocates,” as well as “labor unions and academics.” But she is distrusted by more moderate elements to the point that Obama was afraid to nominate her for office even though Democrats and moderate Republicans make up a veto proof majority in the Senate.
In both the case or Berwick and Warren, President Obama ignored the wishes of various liberals and moderates who recognized the undesirability of evading the Senate confirmation process with respect to positions of such immense power. In the case of Warren, for example, even Chris Dodd, who shepherded the new financial legislation through the Senate, warned that bypassing the confirmation process for Warren, would jeopardize the credibility of the new consumer bureau.
Republicans should make sure that it jeopardizes more than that. If they gain control of one or more chamber of Congress, Republicans should take concerted action to thwart the two agencies in question (CMS and the consumer financial protection bureau), until Obama submits to the normal confirmation procedure.
When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, programs on which millions of Americans depend, there are limits to how far Republicans can take such obstruction. As for Warren’s brainchild agency, however, Republicans should be prepared to keep it from getting off the ground by refusing to fund it.
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