Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy as Next U.S. Surgeon General
On Monday, the Senate voted 51-43 to confirm Vivek Murthy as the nation's next surgeon general, the New York Times reports (Peters, New York Times, 12/15).
He will become the 19th surgeon general and will replace Regina Benjamin, who resigned in July 2013 (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 12/15). President Obama said Murthy will take over the position immediately (AP/U-T San Diego, 12/15).
Obama nominated Murthy, an attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a medical instructor at Harvard Medical School, for the position last year (New York Times, 12/15). However, the nomination had been stalled in the Senate because of Murthy's stance on guns as a public health issue (California Healthline, 3/17).
The National Rifle Association opposed Murthy's nomination and said earlier this year it would consider how senators voted on his nomination in their calculations to determine where the lawmakers fall on its annual scorecard in an attempt to dissuade members from voting to approve him (New York Times, 12/15). The group called Murthy a "serious threat to the rights of gun owners" (O'Keefe/Dennis, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 12/15).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delayed the vote in March because as many as 10 Democrats might have voted against Murthy, the Times reports.
In addition, Republicans expressed concern over Murthy's support for the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times, Murthy helped found the group Doctors for Obama, which supported Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and advocated for the ACA's passage under the group's new name, Doctors for America (New York Times, 12/15). Just one Republican -- Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) -- voted to approve Murthy's confirmation (Modern Healthcare, 12/15).
Obama celebrated Murthy's approval, noting that his "confirmation makes [the U.S.] better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home." Specifically, Obama cited the threat of an Ebola epidemic in West Africa (New York Times, 12/15). He added that Murthy will "bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong" (Haberkorn/Everett, Politico, 12/15).
American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin in a statement said Murthy's "confirmation is a critical step in the right direction that will lead to more positive health outcomes" (Modern Healthcare, 12/15).
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who voted against Murthy, expressed concern about his confirmation. Manchin in a statement said the surgeon general "serves as America's leader on public health services and chooses what health policies we should prioritize," adding, "For that reason, I don't believe it's appropriate for America's number one doctor to participate in political activism" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 12/15).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who also voted against Murthy's confirmation, in a statement said, "With America facing the challenge of Ebola and other serious health challenges, it's unfortunate that the president chose a nominee based on the candidate's political support instead of a long career delivering patient care and managing difficult health crises" (Politico, 12/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.