SURGEON GENERAL: Senate Confirms Satcher
With stronger-than-expected bipartisan support, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. David Satcher was confirmed by the Senate yesterday as surgeon general. "The confirmation vote came minutes after the Senate voted to stop debate," the Nashville Banner reports (Mattern, 2/10). In the initial vote, "75 Senators -- 15 more than required -- voted to end a filibuster by conservative Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO)." The final tally in the confirmation vote was 63-35 in favor of the nomination (Dewar, Washington Post, 2/11). Following the vote, President Clinton said, "[Satcher] is a mainstream physician who is an eloquent advocate for the health of all Americans. ... Dr. Satcher will be a leading voice as we work to pass comprehensive legislation [on] tobacco. I look forward to working with him" (release, 2/10). "On Friday morning, Satcher will be sworn in as both surgeon general and assistant secretary of HHS for health" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/11).
It Didn't Come Easy
NPR's Noah Adams noted Satcher's Senate supporters "had to beat back conservative criticism over late-term abortion and other issues" ("All Things Considered," 2/10). Other conservatives, such as 1996 GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes, supported Ashcroft's stand. "Dr. David Satcher is the wrong man to be the next surgeon general. His support of partial-birth abortion is indefensible. The American people deserve better," Forbes said (release, 2/10). Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) helped lead Satcher's defense in the Senate, "debunking some of the accusations we've heard on the floor over the last week, one by one." Frist said Satcher essentially supports a ban on "partial-birth" abortion with a few exceptions, and that a controversial CDC African AIDS study conducted during Satcher's tenure "was a necessary way to look for lower-cost methods of treatment for AIDS" (Nashville Banner, 2/10). NPR's Peter Kenyon reported, "Critics say the surgeon general is essentially superfluous, with at best an indirect influence on public health matters. But for a symbolic position it's certainly given the White House its share of headaches" ("All Things Considered," 2/10).
"More than 100 health industry organizations endorsed Satcher," including the American Medical Association (Woo, Cox News Service/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/11). In a statement, AMA President Dr. Percy Wootton called Satcher "a leader of tremendous integrity, commitment to public health and dedication to patients (release, 2/10). Former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders said, "The president made an excellent choice in Dr. David Satcher. I feel he'll make an excellent surgeon general" ("Hardball," CNBC, 2/10). In an editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle called Satcher a "good choice," saying his ambitions were "hardly controversial" (2/11). A separate editorial in the Baltimore Sun praises GOP moderates for not being "narrow-minded" on the nomination. "Dr. David Satcher never deserved the brick-bats hurled at him by Republicans intent on blocking any nominee who fails conservative litmus tests," the editorial said (2/11). Satcher, himself, said, "This is an American dream come true, to go from a humble farm in Anniston, AL, to the office of surgeon general" (Hess, Charlotte Observer, 2/11).