Updated December 15, 7:08 p.m.
President Obama nominated Vivek Murthy to be U.S. surgeon general on November 13, 2013. The Senate health committee signed off on him in February. On Monday, one year, one month, and two days after his selection, the Senate voted to confirm him to a post that had been vacant since July.
Like so many of Obama's nominees, Murthy had fallen into a political vortex, subject to an opposition campaign by the NRA over his support for gun-control policies that are far from central to the job informally known as the nation's top doctor. But the absence of a surgeon general had become more conspicuous in recent months, as the Obama administration confronted an Ebola epidemic in West Africa that nearly sparked a public panic when it briefly reached U.S. shores.
"Can anyone think of a public health issue that we’ve had to face since February?" Senator Dick Durbin asked rhetorically in a floor speech on Monday. Without a surgeon general, the CDC's Thomas Frieden took the lead in responding to the Ebola crisis, but the administration's initially inconsistent public response—and the spread of the disease from a misdiagnosed Liberian man to two Dallas nurses—prompted criticism and eventually led Obama to name an "Ebola czar," Ron Klain, to coordinate the government's efforts.