The White House is “recalibrating,” but not abandoning, President Barack Obama's pick to be the next surgeon general after his high-profile views favoring gun control.
Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. surgeon general, listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2014. The White House is backing off its push for quick confirmation of Murthy in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association and concerns among Democrats up for re-election who don’t want to make another tough vote on a controversial nominee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Dr. Vivek Murthy is the president and founder of Doctors for America, which grew from the campaign organization Doctors for Obama that started in 2008. The organization has advocated for a number of liberal initiatives, including expanding gun control, and regards guns as a public health threat.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Obama has opted to “tap the brakes” on the Murthy nomination for now, after it passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a 13-9 vote, but has has many as 10 Democrats ready to join Republicans in opposing it on the floor.
A Senate Democratic aide told the Wall Street Journal that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was unlikely to bring the nomination to the floor since it was unlikely to pass and could cause problems for Democrats in an election year.
Despite changing the Senate rules for the sole purpose of making it easier to push for quicker confirmations of Obama nominees, Democratic senators already assisted Republicans earlier this month in defeating the nomination of Debo Adegbile, a former attorney for a convicted cop killer, to run the Justice Department's civil-rights division.
Asked Monday if the administration was abandoning the surgeon general nomination, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “we're recalibrating our approach, but in answer to your question, no.”
“Dr. Murthy is a dynamic, entrepreneurial practitioner who had dedicated a lot of time, energy and passion to health and wellness,” Carney said. “As surgeon general, he will be a powerful messenger on these issues in each of the tenets of health, nutrition, activity and resilience. Dr. Murthy, as you know, was approved out of committee with bipartisan support."
Carney reiterated that the White House is "recalibrating the strategy around Dr. Murthy’s floor vote" in the wake of the vote on Adegbile, but expects him to ultimately be confirmed.
“They want to hold it over until after the election,” Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, told TheBlaze Tuesday. “We are talking about President Obama … he is not aware of any other opinions. He will want another run at this. That might change if the elections don't go well.”
The surgeon general's office oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which includes the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
“If he is in this role, he will be in a position to dole out taxpayer money to other like-minded organizations that don't like the Second Amendment,” Pratt said.
The Doctors for America organization advocated for the Obama administration’s failed push for expanding gun control laws last year and successfully fought a proposed Florida law that would have prevented doctors from including in a person’s medical file whether they are a gun owner. The organization circulated a petition to pressure Congress to pass stricter gun laws. Even before Obama began advocating for more gun control laws in early 2013, Doctors for America touted its “Docs vs. Glocks Campaign” in summer 2011 in Florida.
The National Rifle Association has said it will score the Murthy vote, and takes particular exception to a letter from the organization on Jan. 14, 2013 supporting licensing of guns, limits on ammunition purchase, and a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. The letter also asked for removing a “provision in the Affordable Care Act and other federal policies that prohibit physicians from documenting gun ownership.”
During the Senate confirmation hearing in February, Murthy said he didn't intend to use the job as a bully pulpit to talk about gun control.
“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 told the Senate committee.