A Key Question That Remains About Donald Berwick

by Benjamin Domenech on 9:36 pm July 7, 2010

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Jake Tapper has a fair assessment of the situation which led up to Donald Berwick’s recess appointment. But I wanted to follow up briefly on a question I raised here and here and in interviews today. Keith Hennessey notes the matter here, in passing: namely, that the recess appointment “allows the nominee to avoid answering an uncomfortable question about his foundation’s funding sources.”

Hennessey goes on to point out:

In the eleven weeks since the nomination Chairman Baucus never held a hearing on Dr. Berwick… No member of the Finance Committee had any opportunity to question Dr. Berwick on either his fitness as a nominee or on his policy views. The Senate Finance Committee therefore never voted on the Berwick nomination. It was never placed on the Executive Calendar. Leader Reid never tried to call up the nomination, and never gave Senate Republicans the opportunity to debate, vote upon, or carry through on their threatened filibuster.

So here’s my question: what standard questions from Senators about the financing and funding of Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement has the nominee not answered, and why?

I know many Senate approved figures who’ve had to go through the approval process. The demands are high, but so are the responsibilities. We know IHI’s 990 forms do not list specific donors (but they are not required to do so), that it has an annual budget of around $35 million, and that Berwick earned a hefty salary and benefits package. But this is a non-profit with multiple governmental and non-governmental contracts. The records should all have been available already — so what, if anything, did Berwick not wish to report?

The answer may be the real reason why this recess appointment surprised so many people on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle.

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