Two Senate Democrats over the weekend called on Senate Democratic leaders to schedule a vote to confirm President Barack Obama's controversial nominee to be the next Surgeon General of the United States.
"As the government assembles a team led by Ron Klain to respond to Ebola, now is the time to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as the next U.S. Surgeon General," Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said.
President Barack Obama delivers doughnuts and pastries to Democratic campaign volunteers on Monday in Chicago. But he has not been able to deliver an acceptable Surgeon General candidate that all Democrats can support. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Murthy has been the subject of intense debate between Republicans and Democrats. Many Democrats have blamed Republicans for blocking the nomination because of Murthy's stance that access to firearms is a health care issue.
But under rules imposed by Democrats last year, Republicans have no power at all to block Obama's nominees, assuming they are supported by all by a few Democrats. Senate rules say only a simple majority vote is needed to advance and confirm all nominees save those picked for the Supreme Court.
That means Democrats can have whoever they want as Surgeon General, as long as the nominee loses no more than a handful of Democratic or Independent senators. Earlier this year, however, Democrats had to pull the nomination because Murthy was thought to be opposed by about 10 Senate Democrats, making his confirmation impossible.
While Blumenthal and Murphy didn't blame either party for holding up Murthy, their call is essentially a call on Senate Democratic leaders to schedule a vote. So far, however, Democratic leaders have not said whether or when a vote might happen, and Obama has not made another pick for Surgeon General that's more acceptable to Democrats.
"Since the first diagnosis of Ebola in the United States late last month, inaccurate information and half truths about the virus have proliferated, undermining the tremendous, successful work of public health professionals. We must remain vigilant in combatting this deadly virus, and much of that effort requires leadership from the Surgeon General – 'the nation’s doctor' – to increase public understanding not just of Ebola, but all diseases and health concerns," the two senators said. "Not having a recognizable, trusted source available to convey critical information, debunk erroneous claims, and assuage fears has put us at a severe disadvantage in a time of great need."