The Senate on Monday confirmed President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, ending a yearlong fight over gun control and politics.
In a vote early in the evening, Vivek Murthy, a doctor specializing in internal medicine, was approved 51-43.
The confirmation was one of the last acts of business for the Democratic-controlled Senate. Had it not occurred, the nomination would have died, leaving the president without a permanent top doctor, possibly even for the remainder of his two years in office.
Democrats said there was no reason to delay the Murthy nomination any longer, especially as the nation’s public health system remained on edge after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and a number of recent Ebola scares at U.S. hospitals. Any reason for denying a vote on his nomination, they said, was purely political.
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But Republicans saw Murthy as a politically connected supporter of Obama who would use his position to push for stricter gun control.
Although the surgeon general’s office does not set or implement gun policy, Murthy’s support for banning the sale of certain weapons and ammunition – as well as implementing longer waiting periods for firearms sales – drew the ire of gun rights advocates like the National Rifle Association.