After 17 months we finally have a new Surgeon General

From Democracy Now!

What exactly does the surgeon general do? The position dates back to 1798, when Congress established the country’s first publicly financed health service to care for ailing merchant sailors. Now, the surgeon general commands more than 6,500 healthcare workers in the “Commissioned Corps” who are tasked with protecting U.S. public health.

An equally important role of the surgeon general is to be “the nation’s doctor,” to use the position for public advocacy, to educate and inspire people to take health care seriously.  

While Murthy’s nomination was held up by Republicans, in October Obama created an “Ebola Czar” as the epidemic intensified in Africa and there were a few people being treated here.

Here is some fun “breaking news,” newly confirmed Surgeon General Vivek Murthy hasn’t tweeted since September 2013! 

The vote was 51-43 with Senator Kirk voting for Murthy and

against an amendment that would have expanded legal access to guns at federally controlled water project sites.

Murthy’s nomination was controversial among Republicans because

The NRA cited tweets from Murthy’s personal Twitter account that promoted his gun control beliefs, including one on Oct. 16, 2012, that said, “Guns are a health care issue.”

Guns are not even something he will focus on as Murthy saying he will focus on obesity if confirmed.  We also needed an Ebola Czar because there was no Surgeon General.

Such a high-profile public health crisis also highlights the fact that the nation currently finds itself without the “Nation’s Doctor,” the popular term for the surgeon general.

Mr. Obama’s nominee for the post, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has fallen victim to congressional gridlock (he must be confirmed by the Senate) over a lighting-rod political issue: guns.

Here for example is Senator Rand Paul’s thoughts, one day after the 2nd anniversary of the Newtown/Sandy Hook shooting.

But as the midterm election campaign ads showed, guns are very popular in Congress.

This year, lots of spots are hitting the air featuring candidates with firearms shooting at things: TVs, drones, thick copies of the Affordable Care Act.

The story about this crop of 2014 campaign ads seems to begin with this ad from the last midterm election season: Sen. Joe Manchin’s 2010 ad “Dead Aim”

Even three Democrats voted against the nomination, including the above-mentioned Joe Manchin who after Newtown wrote the Manchin-Toomey Amendment that would strengthen background checks for gun sales. 

Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

“I’m opposing Dr. Murthy’s nomination because there are severe gaps in his basic qualifications that we as a country expect from our doctor of the nation – including experience in public health education training and management,” Heitkamp said in an email sent by an aide. “Dr. Murthy is a talented individual who I have no doubt has a promising career ahead of him.”

Donnelly echoed Heitkamp’s concerns.

“After speaking with Dr. Murthy, there is no question he is a talented physician and a passionate public health advocate,” Donnelly said in a statement. “However, after reviewing his qualifications, experience, and past positions—as well as the input from Hoosiers—I had concerns about his ability to serve as our nation’s leading medical voice on critical public health issues.”

Manchin announced before the vote that he would oppose Murthy because he was concerned that the positions he took would make it harder to win the trust of the American people.

“Our Surgeon General serves as America’s leader on public health services and chooses what health policies we should prioritize,” Manchin said in a release. “For that reason, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for America’s number one doctor to participate in political activism.”

As Rep. Janice Hahn said (page 9), 

if losing 20 young innocent lives doesn’t shake us up to end this epidemic of gun violence that has plagued our Nation’s neighborhoods, schools, and churches, then nothing will. If we harden our hearts to the tears and the testimonies of the parents of
Newtown here with us this week, then we’re telling every family that has been shattered by a gun and every family that has been shattered by this kind of violence that, if we don’t act, we’re washing our hands of their agony.

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