- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2014

The White House said Monday it is “recalibrating the strategy” on trying to get approval of President Obama’s pick to be the next surgeon general after the National Rifle Association announced its opposition and support began to slip among Senate Democrats.

Mr. Obama watched in dismay earlier this month after Democrats helped block his nominee to a top Justice Department post, and White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration will try to avoid a repeat on Dr. Vivek Murthy. But Mr. Carney insisted they remain committed to Dr. Murthy.

“After the confirmation vote of Debo Adegbile we are recalibrating the strategy around Dr. Murthy’s floor vote,” the spokesman said. “We expect him to get confirmed ultimately and be one of the country’s most powerful messenger on health and wellness. So we’re recalibrating our approach.”


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Dr. Murthy co-founded Doctors for America, a project of the left-leaning Center for American Progress designed to promote Mr. Obama’s health care law.

The NRA says the doctor has been outspoken in his calls for gun control, labeling those views “troublesome” and fearing he would use his post as the country’s symbolic top doctor to push that agenda.

For his part, Dr. Murthy told senators at a confirmation hearing that he would avoid politics in the position.

“I do not intend to use my office as surgeon general as a bully pulpit on gun control,” he said.

He cleared a Senate committee on a bipartisan vote, but has since stalled as Democrats deal with concerns within their own membership.

Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat and gun rights advocate up for re-election this year, recently said in a constituent letter that he has told the White House he will “very likely vote no” on Dr. Murthy’s confirmation, according to the AP.

Senate Democrats forced a rules change last year that made it possible to confirm the president’s nominees by a majority vote, which has helped them speed through a number of controversial picks.

Mr. Obama saw how dangerous an influential interest group’s opposition could be earlier this month when seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting to filibuster the nomination of Mr. Adegbile, who as a former NAACP official helped defend convicted Philadelphia cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Fraternal Order of Police opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination to the top civil rights position at the Justice Department, and seven Democrats ended up voting along with Republicans to filibuster the pick.

If Republicans again stand united in opposing Dr. Murthy, Democrats could afford only five defections from their 55-member caucus.