A picture of Senator Richard Blumenthal
Richard B.
Democrat CT

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  • Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be…

    by Senator Richard Blumenthal

    Posted on 2014-12-15

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    BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am very pleased to be here today to speak on behalf of President Obama's eminently qualified nominee to be Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

    I request that I be permitted to yield to my colleague from Connecticut, Senator Murphy, at the end of my remarks.

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

    Mr. BLUMENTHAL. The Surgeon General of the United States is a person of public trust in this country who has a long and eminent record of informing the Nation and fighting on behalf of the public health of Americans. He has addressed some of the Nation's most pressing public health problems. Over time, there have been a variety of people in that position of public trust to address some of the most pressing public health problems in this Nation. Those challenges have included nicotine addiction, the menaces of Big Tobacco, AIDS, and other emerging diseases, nutrition and food labeling. These challenges require someone of courage and expertise, indeed eminence as a public health warrior.

    In just a few months, the Nation has faced a public health crisis that caused many to question who would be that warrior, that fighter, that eminent and expert physician, and who would defend this Nation at a time of public health crisis.

    Many decried President Obama's appointment of an Ebola czar to fill that position when no one could step forward as Surgeon General, and the reason is that there was no Surgeon General. We lacked someone who could fulfill that role because of a misplaced and misguided opposition. That position has been vacant for far too long. Hopefully today we will confirm Dr. Murthy and allow him to get on the job and get to work on this and other pressing problems facing our country.

    Ebola cases continue to present a dire threat to our Nation because in parts of Africa they are still spreading. Just last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there are serious doubts about whether the Nation's supply of flu vaccine will be effective against the strain of flu that is circulating this winter. We need a Surgeon General to handle that potential public health crisis as well. We are not out of the woods, to quote what Dr. Frieden told me in a conversation just last week on Ebola. We are about to go into the woods in the flu season, and the Surgeon General, as a leader, is needed right now.

    The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, under the leadership of the Attorney General, was deployed to field hospitals and emergency clinics in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oilspill, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They are fighters and warriors for public health as well.

    Dr. Murthy's credentials are without question. They are impeccable, unquestionable, and indisputable. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He is one of our country's most respected medical professionals. He now works and teaches at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. He also earned an MBA, also from Yale. He has been a leader of business and nonprofit organizations that work on many aspects of medical practice, biotechnology and domestic and international public health issues.

    If the question were only about his qualifications, he would be in that position right now, confirmed by the Senate, but unfortunately he has been blocked. The only point raised against him, unconscionably and unnecessarily, is a political smokescreen, essentially, going to comments he has made about gun violence as a public health issue.

    The simple fact is gun violence impacts far too many people. It destroys far too many lives. It is the second leading cause of death in this country after car crashes. Gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, 5 times as many children as heart disease, and 15 times as many children as infection. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 335,000 people died as a result of gun violence.

    Pointing out these facts and asking whether there are strategies we could apply to bring that number down is exactly what a person tasked to keep Americans healthy ought to be doing. But he has said he is going to focus on issues that concern the American public health and will be a fighter for American children, for Americans, against heart disease and cancer and other kinds of issues that affect public health, especially of children, and that is to be valued.

    That smokescreen about gun violence should not have blocked him and should not impede this body voting for him today, approving him as Surgeon General because of his qualifications and because he will contribute enormously to make Americans healthier and safer in this country.

    I am enthusiastically and proudly a supporter of him, and I ask my colleagues to approve him as Surgeon General of the United States to make America safer and healthier and to reject the slick smokescreen that has tried to stop him.

    I yield to my colleague from Connecticut.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.

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