WASHINGTON – President Obama bypassed the Senate Wednesday and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor and patient care specialist, to run Medicare and Medicaid.

The decision to use a so-called recess appointment to install Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services drew immediate fire from the GOP. Republicans have raised concerns about Berwick’s views on rationing of care and other matters and said it was wrong for Obama to go around the normal Senate confirmation process.

The recess appointment is a tool used by presidents of both parties.

Berwick has wide support in the medical community but some Democrats feared the GOP would use his confirmation hearings as an opportunity to reopen last year’s divisive health care debate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Obama of trying to “arrogantly circumvent the American people” with Congress out of town for its annual July Fourth break.

Berwick could serve through next year without Senate confirmation.