Paul targets Surgeon General nominee

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., March 14, 2013.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., March 14, 2013.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as the nation’s Surgeon General several months ago, and the confirmation process has gone fairly smoothly. Perhaps the most interesting thing to happen to Murthy’s nomination thus far was Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) racially tone-deaf comments about Indian-American doctors he knows in Kansas.
 
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hopes to create a controversy where none currently exists.
 
It’s worth noting that Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate. When Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications.
 
Four months after the nomination, however, the junior senator from Kentucky has decided to do what he can to block Murthy from being confirmed.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul placed a procedural hurdle in front of Dr. Vivek Murthy’s confirmation as surgeon general Wednesday morning, citing his political activity for the Obama administration. But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it would not cause a meaningful delay in Murthy’s confirmation vote, which has not yet been scheduled.
 
“I have serious concerns about Dr. Murthy’s ability to impartially serve as ‘the Nation’s Doctor,’” Paul, a Republican, wrote in a letter to Reid. “The majority of Dr. Murthy’s non-clinical experience is in political advocacy.”
The entirety of Paul’s letter is online here. It argues, among other things, “Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to use that position to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”
 
In a nutshell, the Kentucky Republican seems to think Murthy should be rejected because he (a) supports President Obama; (b) is a physician concerned about gun violence; and (c) backs the Affordable Care Act.
 
Paul probably shouldn’t get his hopes up.
 
The effort to block Murthy’s nomination would probably fail anyway, but the “nuclear option” ends filibuster opportunities for executive branch nominees. Unless Paul can convince 50 of his colleagues to join him in his latest odd endeavor, Murthy has an excellent chance of becoming the next Surgeon General, whether the former self-accredited ophthalmologist from Kentucky likes it or not.
 
As for the nominee “disqualifying” himself, the fact that Obama would pick a physician who agrees with the Obama administration on health issues doesn’t seem terribly surprising. If Paul were to somehow derail Murthy, I have a strong hunch his replacement nominee would be pretty similar.
 
But it’s the notion that the doctor shouldn’t be confirmed because he wants to reduce gun violence that’s especially odd.
 
Sy Mukherjee had a good piece on this.
… Paul is actually out of step with most physicians. The idea that gun violence is a danger to public health is utterly uncontroversial among doctors’ groupsacademic institutions that focus on public health, and children’s safety advocates. Although Paul criticizes Murthy’s position that physicians and pediatricians should ask patients about the presence of guns in their households, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution in 2011officially opposing any law that bars doctors from having open conversations about gun safety and the risks of having firearms in a household with their patients.

In fact, just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines recommending that households with children who are diagnosed with depression should remove guns and ammunition from their homes entirely.

If Paul continues to make this a major issue, the senator might want to comment on whether C. Everett Koop was qualified, too – Koop’s position on gun violence seems awfully similar to Murthy’s.
 

Rand Paul

Paul targets Surgeon General nominee