Facing opposition, Obama slows push for surgeon general
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY 2:38 p.m. EDT March 15, 2014
The White House is treading cautiously while going forward with Obama's nominee for surgeon general.
White House hasn't given up on Murthy nomination but is recalibrating strategy
Obama was embarrased this month when the Senate blocked a key Justice Department nomination
Gun rights advocates are raising concerns about Murthy's past advocacy for gun restrictions
After a facing a bruising defeat over President Obama's pick for a key Justice Department post this month, the White House is carefully weighing how to move forward with the president's pick for surgeon general.
The nomination has drawn heckles from gun rights advocates.
A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to talk about White House strategy on the nomination, stressed that the White House hasn't given up on confirming Vivek Murthy, who is perhaps best known for founding Doctors for America, a group that campaigned for Obama's health care law.
But after Obama's nominee to oversee the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile, was blocked from Senate confirmation because of objections to the role he played in the defense of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, the White House decided to slow down its push for Murthy.
"After the Debo vote, we are recalibrating the strategy around his floor vote," the senior administration official said.
Murthy, 36, was approved in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee vote last month with the support of all Democrats and one Republican. And he has received the endorsements of several prominent groups and individuals in the health and wellness community.
But his nomination has faced growing opposition from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, which has raised objections to Murthy advocating for tougher gun laws in the aftermath of the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
Among the reforms that Murthy backed in a 2013 letter to President Obama and Vice President Biden were mandatory licensing for anyone purchasing a firearm or ammunition and a federal ban on assault weapons.
"Just as troublesome as these positions are Dr. Murthy's calls for the federal government to use its involvement in health and medicine to further a gun control agenda," NRA Executive Director Chris Cox wrote in a letter last month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who has a track record of supporting gun ownership rights, told constituents in a letter that he was unlikely to support Murthy if the vote comes to the full Senate for a vote.
"While the Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on Dr. Murthy, I have already told the White House I will very likely vote no on his nomination if it comes to the floor," Begich said in the letter, the Associated Press reports.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has said he will try to block Murthy's confirmation, said he is also concerned about Murthy's political agenda and that Murthy will use the position to promote gun control.
Earlier this week, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who has been among the most outspoken critics of the pick, expressed confidence that several Senate Democrats facing tough re-election battles will join Republicans in voting against Murthy.
"I know there are a number of senators who are up for re-election who are probably not going to want to vote for somebody who is this committed to taking away our Second Amendment rights," Barrasso told Fox News.