SURGEON GENERAL: Satcher’s Nomination Delayed
The nomination of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. David Satcher to be surgeon general "reached the Senate floor yesterday, but conservative objections prevented a quick confirmation vote." The AP/Boston Globe reports that Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO) "continued to threaten a filibuster over Satcher's support of an experimental AIDS treatment program in Africa and his position on some late-term abortions" (Meckler, 2/5). Ashcroft said Satcher had "championed a range of highly troubling and ethically questionable research," including a study conducted in Africa in which some HIV-positive pregnant women were given a placebo instead of AZT (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/5). The senator has asked the CDC to turn over internal documents related to the African AIDS study (AP/Boston Globe, 2/5). Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) said that until the requested documents are delivered, there will not be a vote to confirm Satcher. USA Today reports that the documents could be delivered "as early as today" (2/5). The New York Times reports that the nomination "is expected to drag into next week" (2/5). But NPR's "Morning Edition" reported that a vote on Satcher could come today and that the nomination is expected to pass despite conservatives' objections (2/5).
Some Republicans are vocally supporting the Satcher nomination. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), a physician by training, "said that even though he favored a ban on the late-term abortion method, he was willing to overlook his differences" with Satcher. In an interview, Frist "said he had been buttonholing colleagues to gain support" for Satcher, who he believes would "rebuild the credibility" of the vacant surgeon general post. In a letter to Frist, Satcher "promised a noncontroversial agenda, saying, 'I have devoted my entire career to mainstream, consensus-building efforts to improve the health of the American people'" (New York Times, 2/5). Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who opposed other Clinton surgeon general appointees in the past, is supporting Satcher's nomination, the Tulsa World reports. "Unlike the previous surgeon general nominees presented by President Clinton, Dr. Satcher is not beholden to a liberal agenda on these issues, rather he seeks what is best," Coburn wrote in a confidential Jan. 22 letter to Ashcroft but "leaked to the news media." Coburn, who is also a physician, said while he disagrees with Satcher's "partial-birth" abortion stance, he "remains convinced" that Satcher "is not an advocate of abortion and would work toward reducing" it. "In fact, he has communicated this to me personally," Coburn wrote to Ashcroft (Myers, 2/4).
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Association of American Medical Colleges all "rallied around" Satcher Tuesday, CongressDaily reports. While the AMA opposes the "partial-birth" abortion procedure, AMA Secretary-Treasurer Ted Lewers said his organization "nevertheless" fully advocates Satcher's nomination (2/3). And the NMA, which represents 20,000 African-American and minority physicians, said it "wholeheartedly supports" Satcher. "National health care can only continue to improve with the knowledge and experience in health care that Dr. Satcher has acquired and can provide to the American public as the U.S. Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary of Health," said NMA president-elect Gary Dennis (release, 2/2).