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John B.
Republican WY

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  • Executive Session

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2014-12-15

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    BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.



    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Murthy Nomination Mr. BARRASSO. I rise today to oppose the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General of the United States. The Surgeon General is known as America's doctor. Americans have great respect for this important position. They expect their Surgeon [[Page S6824]] General to be someone who has substantial experience in helping patients, in helping improve their health, and in helping them reduce their risk of illness and injury.

    This important position has been vacant since July of 2013, about a year and a half. It is far too long, and it has been completely avoidable. We have seen how the Obama administration has struggled in response to important health issues such as the Ebola crisis. America should have had a Surgeon General in the job to lead in the fight against Ebola and to take on other serious health challenges as well.

    Dr. Murthy is a smart man who is very well educated. He has an undergraduate degree from Harvard, an MBA from Yale, and an M.D. from the Yale School of Medicine. These are impressive academic credentials, and I am sure he will be a fine doctor, but they are simply not sufficient qualifications for this important job.

    Is Dr. Murthy a renowned expert in treating patients or researching diseases? No, not at all. Has he actually built a career teaching medicine or leading major public health organizations? No, not yet. In fact, Dr. Murthy only completed his residency in 2006--just 8 years ago. I speak as someone who has actually practiced medicine for 25 years, has been an instructor of surgery at Yale Medical School, which Dr. Murthy attended, and I saw that being a doctor is about much more than going to school. Doctors learn more and more as they progress through their careers and spend more time with their patients, listening to patients and the patients' families. Dr. Murthy has not had the time to develop these kinds of skills.

    So what qualifies him to be Surgeon General of the United States? Well, in 2008, just 2 years out of his residency, he founded a group called Doctors for Obama; the purpose: to elect a President. The majority of his career has been spent not as a doctor treating patients but as an activist--an activist focused on gun control and political campaigns.

    Even former Surgeon General Richard Carmona has said Dr. Murthy doesn't have the medical experience to serve in such an important position. Let me point out that Dr. Carmona is a Democrat. He wrote an article for the Huffington Post on December 4. It was entitled ``In Search of a Surgeon General.'' I will read a little bit of what he wrote. He said: We don't appoint doctors early in their career to be a university Dean or Chairman. Graduate business students at the top of their class don't become instant CEOs. Top law graduates of elite law schools don't get nominated to be U.S. Attorney General or a Supreme Court Justice. Why would the U.S. Surgeon General be any different? He concludes by asking: Is the health, safety, and security of the Nation any less important? Is the health, safety, and security of the Nation any less important? Well, no, the health, safety, and security of the Nation are not less important, and the job of Surgeon General is not less important.

    Americans want the same thing from a Surgeon General as they want from their own doctors. People want honest and straightforward advice about medical dangers, such as cancer, heart attacks, and stroke. They don't want an inexperienced, unqualified political appointee. Patients don't want a doctor who might let political ideology get in the way of treatment and their best interest. Americans don't want a Surgeon General who might use this position of trust to promote his own personal campaign against the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

    This is just another example of President Obama giving someone an important job based solely on their support of the President's political career--just like his nomination of a soap opera producer to be Ambassador to Hungary or the President's nomination of a man to be Ambassador to Norway when the person didn't know the first thing about the country. Of course, both those nominations to be Ambassadors had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the President's campaigns. Well, those nominations were embarrassing, and so is this nomination to be Surgeon General.

    This office of Surgeon General is not just an honorary title. It is not just a figurehead position. The Surgeon General commands the entire Commissioned Corps of the uniformed public health officers. There are 6,700 people whom the Surgeon General commands. It is one of the key positions leading America's public health efforts.

    America has a long history of qualified and talented people filling this job. When President Bill Clinton nominated David Satcher in 1998, Dr. Satcher had already served as president of a medical school and as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. C. Everett Koop spent 35 years as a leading world-renowned pediatric surgeon. They were substantial candidates who brought serious experience to the job. The responsibilities of being America's Surgeon General require a strong, professional leader, and the American people deserve a qualified nominee. There is a long list of capable doctors who could meet those requirements. The President should pick one of them.

    Over the years, we have seen that when the President has nominated qualified people for this position, the Senate has approved their nominations on overwhelmingly bipartisan votes. When President Obama nominated Regina Benjamin to be Surgeon General, she was confirmed unanimously, as was Richard Carmona when President Bush nominated him. Today, even Democrats have objected to the nomination of Dr. Murthy.

    So why are we wasting the Senate's time talking about this now? Well, if President Obama thinks Dr. Murthy is qualified, why haven't we already voted on him? He was nominated more than a year ago--more than a year ago. We had the Ebola crisis and no Surgeon General. He was nominated more than a year ago. His confirmation hearing in the committee was last February. The majority leader could have brought this up for a vote at any time in the past 9 months, but he didn't do it. Why? Because he knew this nominee--this unqualified, partisan nominee--didn't have the votes. He could not get the votes on the Democratic side of the aisle. The nomination would have been an embarrassment before the election.

    Now is not the right time for this nomination, and this is not the right job for Dr. Murthy. The Ebola problem and the other health crises facing our Nation are enormous challenges that require skills and talents that this nominee has simply not had time to develop and which he has so far not demonstrated in his career.

    I wish to close by quoting from a letter former Surgeon General Carmona sent to all of the Members of the Senate earlier this month. He sent it to each and every one of us. I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: December 1, 2014.

    Dear Senator, I am writing to express my concern over the present nominee for U.S. Surgeon General whose name may be submitted to you for confirmation during the remaining Senate session. The U.S. Surgeon General is the doctor of the nation and the commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corp, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy is a physician very early in his career with great promise but no formal public health education, training, leadership or management experience.

    However, he was the founder of Doctors for Obama, a partisan organization supporting the election and policies of President Obama. His partisanship and lack of qualifications for the job of Surgeon General give this nomination the scent of political patronage. In addition, the position of Surgeon General is a uniformed services position with the rank of Vice Admiral. The nominee has no uniformed service experience, does not merit this rank and his confirmation would undermine the credibility and authenticity of the Office of the Surgeon General while demeaning the selfless service of qualified career uniformed officers who merit consideration.

    The public we have the privilege to serve deserves and expects a Surgeon General who, through extensive education, experience, training and service, merits the position of Surgeon General of the United States.

    For these reasons, I respectfully request that if this nomination comes before you that you reject it in favor of a qualified career USPHSCC officer who merits your consideration.

    Sincerely, Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS.

    Mr. BARRASSO. Dr. Carmona writes: His partisanship and lack of qualifications for the job of Surgeon General gives this nomination the scent of political patronage.

    That is from a Democrat who actually served as Surgeon General and knows what it takes to do the job well.

    [[Page S6825]] Dr. Carmona added in his letter to all of the Members of the Senate: His confirmation would undermine the credibility and authenticity of the Office of Surgeon General, while demeaning the selfless service of qualified career uniformed officers who merit consideration.

    That is whom the President of the United States has chosen to nominate--someone who would undermine the credibility and authenticity of the Office of Surgeon General, while demeaning the selfless service of qualified career uniformed officers who merit consideration.

    Americans deserve a Surgeon General who has substantial experience in managing complex crises and delivering patient care. The American people deserve a Surgeon General who has proven throughout his or her career that their main focus is a commitment to patients, not a commitment to politics.

    Dr. Murthy has time to learn, time to gain experience, and that may make him a fine Surgeon General someday, but that day is not today. I call on the Senate to defeat the nomination of Dr. Murthy for Surgeon General of the United States.

    I thank the Presiding Officer.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Heitkamp). The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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