One of the physicians serving in the Senate called on President Obama to withdraw his 37-year-old nominee for surgeon general, an appointment that has stalled amid opposition in the upper chamber.
Vivek Murthy, a Harvard Medical School instructor who founded Doctors for Obama (which changed its name to Doctors for America), was nominated in November 2013.
Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak has been acting surgeon general since Regina Benjamin’s resignation in July 2013.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) put a hold on Murthy’s nomination in February, noting “the majority of Dr. Murthy’s non-clinical experience is in political advocacy.”
“Historically, the Surgeon General of the United States has been a position with the purpose of educating Americans so that they may lead healthier lives, rather than advancing a political agenda,” Paul wrote at the time to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to use that position to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) was among Democrats telling the White House he would “very likely vote no” on Murthy, and the nomination hasn’t come to the floor.
Reid could bring Murthy up for a vote after midterm elections, though, and argue that the nomination needs to be pushed through quickly because of the health crisis.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today urged Obama to pull the nomination, arguing that now more than ever American needs an experienced surgeon general.
“Americans are justifiably worried about the spread of Ebola and concerned that it could reach their families. In the middle of growing uncertainty, President Obama and his team need to do everything possible to give the American people more confidence that their government is working effectively to prevent any more people from contracting this deadly virus,” Barrasso said in a statement.
“Now more than ever, our nation needs to have an experienced and effective Surgeon General to help coordinate the government’s Ebola strategy.”
The senator, who as an orthopedic surgeon was president of the Wyoming Medical Society, noted that “it has been clear for almost a year that the president’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is not the right person for this consequential job.”
“His nomination has stalled in the Senate for months because members from both sides of the aisle are concerned that Dr. Murthy is primarily known for his advocacy for gun control and his fundraising capabilities on behalf of the president. These ‘qualifications’ will not solve the wide range of public health problems currently facing Americans,” he said.
“It is now time for President Obama to immediately withdraw Dr. Murthy’s nomination and promptly nominate an experienced professional who can help prevent the spread of Ebola and tackle other serious health challenges. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who has substantial experience in managing complex crises and delivering patient care.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling on Obama to bring in a former surgeon general to held coordinate the Ebola response.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today joined Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) call for an Ebola czar.
“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Nelson said. “This person should be at least temporarily based in a White House war room with direct authority from the president – someone like former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who has the requisite medical background and who served in that position under former president George W. Bush.”