This time it's the heavy hand of the NRA intimidating senators.
Murthy, a physician at a top Boston hospital and a teacher at Harvard Medical School, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in February with the support of all Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.). He would be the first Indian-American surgeon general, if confirmed, and he's supported by more than 50 key organizations and figures in the health and wellness community, per the White House.Dr. Murthy would not be in a position to actually do anything but talk about guns. Because of the NRA's ceaseless lobbying, federal medical research institutions are forbidden to study guns as part of their public health mission or even to advocate for firearms restrictions. Murthy, or any other surgeon general, would have very little influence at all on the issue. Murthy himself testified in his confirmation hearing that he would not use this position, should he be confirmed, to advocate for gun restrictions.
But past comments he made in support of gun control have drawn strong opposition from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. Specifically, in his role as the leader of Doctors for America, Murthy called gun violence "an important public health issue" and urged a ban on military-style assault weapons after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in December 2012. That position isn't sitting well with powerful leaders in the gun lobby.
"Simply put, confirmation of Dr. Murthy is a prescription for disaster for America's gun owners," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's legislative arm, wrote to Senate leaders in February.
Not good enough for as many as 10 Democrats who are terrified of having the NRA campaign against them. Thus far, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) is the only one to publicly say he's a likely "no" vote, but Democratic opposition has prevented Harry Reid from scheduling a vote. That's forced the White House to, in the words of press secretary Jay Carney, "recalibrate" their approach to the nomination. They don't want another debacle like the Adegbile nomination. It's unclear right now whether recalibrating means having Murthy withdraw his nomination, or President Obama stepping in and personally lobbying Democrats to grow a spine.