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Senate confirms Murthy as US Surgeon General

The US Senate has confirmed Dr Vivek Hallegere Murthy as the next Surgeon General of the United States of America, despite stiff opposition from the Republican Party and gun-rights advocates.

Senate confirms Murthy as US Surgeon General

Dr Vivek Murthy. AP/PTI



Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

The US Senate has confirmed Dr Vivek Hallegere Murthy as the next Surgeon General of the United States of America, despite stiff opposition from the Republican Party and gun-rights advocates.

Murthy’s nomination had been stalled for more than a year over comments he made in support of stricter gun control.

Murthy, 37, was approved 51-43 by the Senate on Monday. Three Democrats voted against his nomination, while one Republican voted in favour. Murthy is the first Indian-American Surgeon General and the youngest person ever to hold that position.

US President Barack Obama said that as “America’s Doctor”, Murthy will “hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.

“He’ll 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. Vivek will also help us build on the progress we’ve made combating Ebola, both in our country and at its source,” Obama said.

“Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek’s confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home,” he added.

Obama nominated Murthy in November 2013, but the nomination was blocked after conservative groups led by the National Rifle Association (NRA) publicised Murthy’s postings on Twitter in which he described guns as a “public health issue.”

Murthy co-founded Doctors for Obama that supported Obama’s 2008 White House campaign and later fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act under the new name Doctors for America.

In January 2013, a month after a gunman went on a shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 26 people, Murthy signed a Doctors for America letter that called for “significant changes in policy” to reduce gun deaths in half by 2020.

The letter called for more background checks, assault weapons bans, and other policies that the National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes.

In a message posted on Twitter in 2012, Murthy accused members of the US Congress of “playing politics” with the issue of gun control because they were “scared of the NRA.”

The National Rifle Association fought Murthy’s nomination until the 11th hour.

In a December 9 letter to senators, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, wrote that “Murthy’s political activism on behalf of a radical gun control agenda compromises his ability to speak to a broad segment of the American public on questions of health and science.”

As opposition to Murthy’s nomination built, as many as 10 Democrats, worried about losing re-election battles in November, were considering to vote against Murthy. Worried about losing its nominee, the White House asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to delay the vote in March.

Democrats lost control of the Senate to Republicans in mid-term elections in November.

Reid had vowed to schedule a vote on the Surgeon General nominee before the new Congress convenes in January. Murthy’s nomination would have been dead on arrival in a Republican-controlled Senate.

On Monday, only one Republican — Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois — voted for Murthy. The three Democrats who voted against him were: Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana) and Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota).

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