It has been nearly a year since Vivek Murthy was nominated by President Obama to serve as the next Surgeon General, but thanks in large part to the gun lobby and their Republican allies in the Senate, there has yet to be any movement on his confirmation.
That vacancy has become a central focus in the last week as government officials and medical professionals try to calm the public about the spread of Ebola.
On Sunday, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) about the NRA’s role in blocking Murthy’s confirmation, but the Republican senator dismissed the question outright.
Blunt blamed the vacancy on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has yet to put Murthy’s nomination to a full vote, and dismissed questions about the National Rifle Association’s efforts to block the nominee.
“The NRA said they were going to score the vote and suddenly everybody froze him,” said Chuck Todd. “That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?”
“Well, the president really ought to nominate people that can be confirmed to these jobs, and frankly then we should confirm them, there’s no question about that,” replied Blunt.
Earlier this year, the NRA launched a campaign to derail Murthy’s nomination because he voiced support for expanding background checks for gun purchases. His comments that gun violence was a public health concern raised the ire of the gun lobby and conservative lawmakers despite the fact that every major medical association — and several former Surgeons General under Republican presidents — shared the same view.
Todd questioned the wisdom of giving the NRA any kind of influence over the country’s top public health position, but Blunt rejected the notion that the NRA played any role in Murthy’s confirmation. “I’m not sure that’s why, you’d have to ask Senator Reid why he hasn’t move that to the top of his list to be confirmed.”
After the NRA began publicly opposing Murthy’s nomination, several of Blunt’s Republican colleagues including Rand Paul, John Cornyn and John Barrasso said they too would move to block Murthy’s nomination, and Paul placed a hold on the nomination.
Lawmakers and health experts have expressed concern over the lack of a Surgeon General to craft a unified response to the ebola diagnoses, leading to confusion that has helped fuel public fear of the virus, fear that is largely unfounded.
Blunt told Todd that he thinks we need a surgeon general. But asked if he would vote for Murthy’s confirmation, Blunt again refused to answer the question and blamed the administration.
“Until this came up, frankly I’ve heard very little discussion about the Surgeon General,” he said.