Democrats Withhold Support for Obama's Surgeon General Pick

Image: Democrats Withhold Support for Obama's Surgeon General Pick

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 09:13 AM

By Melanie Batley

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As many as 10 Senate Democrats are withholding support for President Barack Obama's choice of Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general amid concerns about his pro-gun control opinions.

According to The Wall Street Journal, concerns arose over Murthy's ability to pass a confirmation vote in the Senate after Democrats voted with Republicans earlier this month to block  Debo Adegbile, Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

It was the first time the Senate refused to advance an Obama nominee after Democrats controversially changed filibuster rules in November to expedite appointments that were being blocked by Republicans.

"Vivek was approved out of committee with bipartisan support, but after the Debo vote, we are recalibrating the strategy around his floor vote," a senior White House official said, according to the Journal. "We expect him to ultimately get confirmed and be one of the country's most powerful messengers on health and wellness."

The National Rifle Association has been vocal in its opposition to the appointment, saying it would give Murthy a platform on which to advance his activism on gun control, which he has called a "public health issue."

"Given Dr. Murthy's lengthy history of hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms, along with his calls for the full weight of the federal government's health apparatus to be used to target lawful gun ownership, there is little reason to believe that he would not work to further a gun control agenda if confirmed as surgeon general," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's political arm, wrote in a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Journal reported.

Murthy has been on record for his support of gun-control policies, including a federal ban on certain semiautomatic weapons and their ammunition.

Murthy, a 36-year-old Harvard- and Yale-educated doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, is president and co-founder of Doctors for America, a group that supports Obamacare.

"My concerns with regards to issues like gun violence have to do with my experience as a physician, seeing patients in emergency rooms who have come in with acute injuries; but also seeing many patients over the years who are dealing with spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other chronic complications from gun violence," Murthy said during his February Senate confirmation hearing, according to the Journal.

He also said at the time that as surgeon general he intended to focus on obesity prevention, which he considered "the defining public health issue of our time."

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