Dr. Vivek Murthy will likely not be the next Surgeon General, after at least 10 Democrats have indicated they would vote against him because he supports tighter gun control. Despite the fact that Democrats control the Senate, the White House is "recalibrating" its strategy and will probably delay the vote. Congratulations to the National Rifle Association — its activists succeeded in intimidating vulnerable Senate Dems into abandoning Murthy and Obama.
Murthy comes from a top hospital in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School, which would seem like strong qualifications. He also supports an assault weapons ban and stricter gun control. It may seem like that has nothing to do with whether or not he should be the Surgeon General, but because Murthy considers guns a public health and safety issue, the NRA fought hard against his nomination.
Murthy has said unequivocally, "I do not intend to use my office as surgeon general as a bully pulpit on gun control," and has pledged to make fighting obesity his main cause — but that doesn't matter. The NRA's painted a picture of Murthy as someone who would use his influence as Surgeon General to order studies supporting new gun restrictions.
Whether or not Senate Democrats believe the NRA's rhetoric about Murthy, they're nervous about the midterm elections. In pro-gun states like Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana, Dems are in a tight spot. The NRA is a powerful lobby in these states — it's already sent out a "grass roots alert" to email subscribers about the vote on Murthy. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, one of those embattled Democrats, has stated his likely opposition. So the White House has no choice but to delay the vote, and some think Murthy may end up withdrawing his name altogether.
The president and the CDC happen to agree with Murthy about guns being a public health issue. But framing the issue that way scares gun rights activists. When Sen. Rand Paul blocked Murthy's nomination in February, he noted that Murthy "has advocated that doctors use their position of trust to ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home" and worried that an organization Murthy founded "advocated that physicians collect and report data on gun ownership to the Federal Government." Rand Paul gets an A+ rating from Gun Owners of America.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.