Obama, Sen. Roberts Lash Out in Dueling Addresses

Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:30am

President Barack Obama on Saturday used his weekly radio address to slam Congressional Republicans for allegedly standing in the way of efforts to right the nation’s economy, while Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) took Obama to task for the recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to run the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Touting Democratic efforts to address Wall Street reforms, unemployment insurance and job growth, Obama roundly criticized Republicans, accusing them of obstructing legislation for political gains.

“Consider what that obstruction means for our small businesses – the growth engines that create two of every three new jobs in this country. … Again and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said ‘no,’ and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote,” Obama said.

“Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than 2 million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food,” he added. “Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of Senators – basically the same crowd who said ‘no’ to small businesses – said ‘no’ to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote,” the president charged.

Meanwhile Roberts called Berwick a “czar” – a rhetorical flourish aimed at rekindling fears from last year that Obama was appointing unsupervised ideologues to key administration positions – and took Obama to task for using a recess appointment to install the controversial doctor.

“President Obama – again – has gone behind closed doors to appoint a health care czar without public debate. President Obama gave a recess appointment – avoiding a public hearing and a vote in the Senate – to Dr. Donald Berwick,” Roberts said.

Berwick is now the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Republicans see Berwick as a symbol of the failings of Obama’s health care reforms and have attacked him for controversial statements that he has made in praise of the United Kingdom’s government-run health system.

Roberts also chided Obama for choosing the July Fourth recess to appoint Berwick, arguing that, “It is ironic that the president chose Independence Day for this action, avoiding the Senate’s constitutional check on executive power, to appoint Dr. Berwick.”

Although Obama nominated Berwick earlier this year, he opted to not wait for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings. “As a result of the recess appointment,” Roberts said, “Dr. Berwick will take office through the back door without any formal public vetting as prescribed by the Constitution.”