Friday, March 21, 2014

Vivek Murthy shot down by the NRA

A not quite predictable story. The NRA came in with guns blazing and the Democrats blinked.  

How did this happen with a 50 threshold (and a 55 member count in the Senate)? Dave Weigel explains:

This tweet still haunts Murthy. As of last week, his nomination hangs in jeopardy because Senate Democrats—who can afford to lose every Republican vote and four of their own—aren’t confident they can confirm him. Months after reforming the filibuster, after lowering the vote threshold from 60 to 51, Democrats are facing their second defeat of a nominee in less than a month. 

The most-stated reason is that in his tweets and in his work at DFA, Murthy couldn’t help himself from criticizing guns as a “health care issue.” 

In a post–Sandy Hook letter, DFA even supported an assault weapons ban.

Every other Democrat, in Congress and in the White House, is baffled. They went into the confirmation vote for Justice Department nominee Debo Adegbile expecting to lose a few of their own—Adegbile had joined a defense team for Mumia Abu-Jamal and criticized the role of race in the justice system—but not to lose. Joe Biden didn’t show up for the vote to lose. He expected to cast a tie-breaking aye.  

They didn’t expect the NRA to oppose a nominee for surgeon general because, as one White house source put it, when has that ever happened?
Feb. 4: Murthy appears before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander calls him out on this. “Much of your credential, it seems to me, is a political credential,” says Alexander. Murthy had advocated for the Affordable Care Act, when there was “at least a large majority of Americans and a large number of the Congress who disagree with that law.” He’d tweeted critically of the NRA, when “Americans have a First Amendment right to advocate for the Second Amendment or any amendment.”

Murthy backs down immediately, saying his priority in office would be fighting obesity, not gun ownership. “My concerns with regard to issues like gun violence have to do with my experience as a physician,” he says, “seeing patients in emergency rooms.” The issue seems to peter out. Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi says he’s “glad” Murthy walked back the gun talk, and adds that “in the West, violence is mostly caused by people taking away guns.”

Feb. 26: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul sends Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter announcing his intention to put a hold on the Murthy nomination. “In his efforts to curtail Second Amendment rights, Dr. Murthy has continually referred to guns as a public health issue on par with heart disease and has diminished the role of mental health in gun violence,” writes Paul. “As a physician, I am deeply concerned that he has advocated that doctors use their position of trust to ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home.”

On the same day, the NRA sends a letter to Reid and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell officially opposing the nomination.

March 11-12: At the start of the Senate’s last week before a short recess, Fox News starts covering the Murthy nomination. “Do you want a partisan physician?” asks Elisabeth Hasselbeck, rhetorically. Megyn Kelly’s prime-time show books Chris Cox, the NRA executive who wrote the no-Murthy letter, where he claims the nominee “is hell-bent on treating a constitutional freedom like a disease.”


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