When President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as the nation’s next Surgeon General, he seemed like a pretty safe bet for confirmation. In fact, his confirmation hearings were so uncontroversial, they were practically dull – except for Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) unfortunate comments about an Indian-American doctor he knows in Kansas.
As we’ve discussed before, Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications. But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination.
Senate Democrats could have confirmed him anyway, but red-state Dems got election-year jitters, which left the Surgeon General’s office empty, even during the Ebola public-health scare.
But the fight isn’t over just yet. Sabrina Siddiqui reported the other day that several key Senate Democrats have shifted their posture, giving Murthy and his allies new hope for confirmation.
Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that they would be willing to vote in Murthy’s favor if Reid brings the nomination to the floor. Pryor, who lost his seat last month to GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, was thought to be one of several Democratic holdouts on Murthy’s nomination.Tester’s support is also key, given his influence among red state Democrats who are more likely to remain on the fence about Murthy. The Montana Democrat, who was recently chosen to run his party’s campaign arm in the 2016 election cycle, said he was impressed after meeting with Murthy in his Capitol Hill office…. Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have also been publicly supportive of Murthy and are regarded as influential among party moderates.
Back in March, “as many as 10” Senate Democrats were reluctant to vote on Murthy’s nomination. We can’t say with certainty which 10 – they were never formally identified – but if most of them have changed their minds now that the election season has ended, we may yet have a Surgeon General after all.
His allies are clearly trying to ratchet up the pressure.
Public health professionals are making a last-ditch effort this week to pressure the Senate to confirm Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy before lawmakers leave for the holidays.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) issued a strongly worded statement Monday calling out the National Rifle Association (NRA) for its opposition to Murthy’s nomination.
The American Heart Association has also reportedly “canvassed Capitol Hill urging a confirmation of Murthy before the end of the lame-duck Congress.” There were also compelling op-eds touting his nomination over the weekend in the Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rumor has it Vivek – whose nomination cannot be filibustered under the “nuclear option” change – could see a vote on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. It’s all dependent on whether or not the Senate Democratic leadership believes the votes are there to confirm.
If not, Vivek’s nomination will expire at the end of this Congress, and the nation will probably go without a Surgeon General until 2017, at the earliest, since a Republican-led Senate seems likely to oppose anyone the Obama White House sends to the Hill for consideration.