White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the administration
expects Vivek Hallegere Murthy, the head of a doctors group, to
eventually be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and is not reconsidering
withdrawing Murthy's nomination for the top health post.
Earlier this month, seven Democrats broke ranks and joined
Republicans to block the nomination of lawyer Debo Adegbile to head
the Justice Department's civil rights division.
The administration's defeat came eight months before congressional
elections and as some of Obama's Democrats in Congress did not want
to be seen as soft on crime by supporting Adegbile amid objections
from police groups.
Obama nominated Murthy in November to serve as the nation's top
public health advocate. Murthy's appointment passed a key Senate
panel with bipartisan support. But the full Senate must still vote
to back him.
"After the confirmation vote of Debo Adegbile, we are recalibrating
the strategy around Dr. Murthy's floor vote. We expect him to get
confirmed ultimately and be one of the country's most powerful
messengers on health and wellness," Carney told reporters in a
Carney did not offer any details about the new strategy but said
that "recalibrate" did not mean choosing another nominee.
The White House's pause signals potential trouble for Obama's latest
nomination and points to fraying ties between the president and
members of his own party in the Senate, many of whom are up for
reelection in November and want to distance themselves from the
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Republicans are hoping to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats
in November's voting.
The administration's reassessment of Murthy also comes amid
opposition from the National Rifle Association, the nation's leading
gun advocacy group. The NRA, in a letter to Senate leaders last
month, said it "strongly opposes" Murthy for supporting various
proposals aimed at tightening gun regulations.
Asked about the effect of the NRA's opposition, Carney reiterated
the administration's strategy shift and said it would decide "how
and when to move forward."
Murthy is president of Doctors for America, a group of more than
16,000 physicians and medical students promoting Obama's signature
healthcare law, also known as Obamacare. An internist by training,
Murthy practices medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard
If approved, he would replace Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, who has
been acting as the surgeon general since July and overseeing public
health endeavors around the country.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Steve Holland
and Richard Cowan; editing by James Dalgleish)
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