From Volume 37, Issue 30 of EIR Online, Published Aug. 6, 2010

United States News Digest

Senator Demands Confirmation Hearing for Obama Sneak Appointment

July 30 (EIRNS)—Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today repeated his demand for a full confirmation hearing for Sir Donald Berwick, whom President Obama named, by recess appointment, to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), bypassing the Senate confirmation process. On July 19, clearly under pressure, Obama re-submitted Berwick's nomination, but Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, has still refused to schedule a hearing.

Roberts, speaking at a Committee hearing today, pointed out that Berwick will be in charge of implementing sweeping changes to the nation's health-care system, and that he is charged with finding nearly a half-a-trillion dollars in cuts as required in the health-care bill that was "jammed through" Congress.

"Given that all we know about Dr. Berwick [is] from his public statements—one, which he expresses his love of the British National Health System, a system which rations care to patients in order to contain costs—it is incumbent upon us to know more about his views on what services are acceptable and what medical services will get the cut."

On the same day, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, sent a new letter to CMS demanding that Berwick submit the last three years of taxes and contributor information for his Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the nonprofit he left to become CMS administrator. "The public has the right to know whether the numerous and significant policy decisions that you make are vulnerable to these potential conflicts of financial interest," Grassley wrote. Berwick and his wife have health care for life from the IHI, and Grassley wants to know whose contributions are funding this. Grassley said that Berwick had agreed to supply such information after he was nominated, but before he was recess-appointed.

GOP Senators Seek Repeal of IPAB 'Death Panel'

July 28 (EIRNS)—Warning of the threat of healthcare rationing, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and four other Republican Senators introduced a bill Tuesday to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (formerly known as IMAC)— the specific "death panel" provision in the Obamacare bill.

A press release on Cornyn's website emphasizes that IPAB puts power over Medicare spending decisions in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats, and quotes the cosponsors: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) says this is "an unelected board with unprecedented power over the health decisions of every American senior." Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) warns of "the inevitable rationing that will result in the delay and denial of care," and that certain tests and treatments will not be covered. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) says: "On the hook to find $500 billion in cuts to pay for the new health care law, IPAB is yet another government body tasked with rationing to contain costs." And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) also warns that the law puts "government bureaucrats and rationing boards in the middle of medical decisions."

Spotlighting Obama's 'Unitary Executive' Power Grab

July 28 (EIRNS)—Two more examples arose today, of a recognition that President Obama is following in the footsteps of the Schmittlerian "Unitary Executive" policies introduced over the past decade by George Bush and Dick Cheney.

In a eulogy for the departing White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, the New York Times' Matt Bai notes how Orszag pressed for shifting power, especially budgetary power, from Congress to the Executive. In order to "bend the curve" on health-care expenditures, Orszag pushed through IPAB (the Independent Payments Advisory Board) for Medicare and more, which he himself has called the "single-biggest yielding of power to an independent entity since the creation of the Federal Reserve."

Similarly, Orszag brokered the creation of the Fiscal ["Catfood"] Commission. "Taken together," observes Bai, "all of these proposals would seem to represent a clear exertion of executive power over the legislative branch from an administration that was supposed to have been more deferential to Congressional prerogatives."

At the same time, two U.S. Senators are challenging Obama to heed the Senate's Constitutional powers. According to Politico, Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) sent a letter to Obama today, asking him to respect the Senate's Constitutional obligation to give "advice and consent" on treaties and declarations of war, and demanding that any agreement with Afghanistan should "carry the weight of a treaty and be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent in keeping with Constitutional requirements." They also warned Obama not to continue former President George W. Bush's sidestepping of restrictions on the Executive in declaring and funding wars.

'Catfood Commission' May Be in a Catfight

July 28 (EIRNS)—The so-called National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ("Catfood Commission"), co-chaired by former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, was established by President Obama, to impose austerity, especially against the elderly and poor. But most of the members of the Commission are sitting Members of Congress, about to face another rough August out among the political mass strike of their constituents. Two "sub-commissions" which were supposed to report to the Commission today—one on cutting mandatory expenditures like Social Security, the other on cutting discretionary spending like education, health, and defense—pretty much reported that they had not been able to agree on anything, despite "friendly and bipartisan meetings."

The problem Obama has in pushing his murderous cuts, was revealed again, when Democratic Commission member Rep. Janice Schakowski of Illinois, denounced the Commission's "expert" witness Barry Anderson of the OECD, for glibly stating that Social Security "won't be there" for today's younger members of the workforce. "We in Congress will decide on meeting Social Security obligations—that's outside your authority," Schakowsky scolded Anderson, reflecting the anger of the aroused American citizenry.

City, County Governments at Crisis Point as Job Losses Soar

July 27 (EIRNS)—A new report issued by the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Counties, estimates that local government job losses will approach 500,000 this year and next, with public safety, public works, public health, and social services among the hardest-hit sectors. The estimate is based on a survey of cities of over 25,000 population and counties of over 100,000 population, conducted in May and June. 214 cities and 56 counties responded. The survey found that 63% of cities and 39% of counties reported cuts in public safety personnel, 60% of cities and 68% of counties reported cuts in public works personnel, 52% of counties reports cuts in social services, and 48% in public health. Parks and recreation, public libraries, and schools are being hit similarly.

The report was presented on Capitol Hill, today, by senior officials of all three organizations, and was used by them as well as by members of Congress to lobby for the Local Jobs for America Act, a relief bill sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), that would allocate money to state and local governments, and community service organizations, to create local service jobs, including in public safety and other areas.

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