Why don’t we have a Surgeon General?

The Surgeon General occupies a rather unusual position in the federal government: a highly-visible, but not highly-powerful position.

Essentially, the Surgeon General is the country’s leader when it comes to public health. Like most political appointees, the Surgeon General is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and upon taking the job, automatically becomes a Vice Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Your exposure to the Surgeon General has likely come from C. Everett Koop, the old guy who looks like one of the experts on Pawn Stars, who appears on the Life Alert commercials to endorse the product.

all senior citizens should have this genuine civil war officer’s uniform

The current Surgeon General is ____________ ______________.

That’s right.

We don’t really have an official Surgeon General, and we’re in the middle of an Ebola crisis.


Well, in November 2013, almost a year ago, President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the office of Surgeon General.

But it’s almost a year later and he hasn’t been confirmed.

Many sources, including the following, have blamed Republicans for blocking Dr. Murthy in the Democratic-controlled Senate from being confirmed:

U.S. News: “GOP Blocked Surgeon General Nominee Vivek Murthy Needed During Ebola Crisis”

Daily Kos: “Republicans who Blocked Surgeon General Nominee Blame Obama for Surgeon General Vacancy”

Media Matters: “After Smearing Surgeon General Nominee Fox Wonders Why There Isn’t A Surgeon General to Deal with Ebola”

Think Progress: “After Blocking Surgeon General Nominee, Republican Blames Obama for Surgeon General Vacancy”

Except that’s just not the case:

The White House is still conferring with Senate Democrats on how to advance Murthy’s nomination, including possibly postponing a vote until after the November [2014] midterms.

Reportedly, about ten Senate Democrats were refusing to support Murthy’s nomination; among them was Mark Begich, who cited concerns about the nominee’s political advocacy and inexperience as a practicing physician.

So the President is withdrawing the nominee because Democrats are refusing to support the nominee, and that’s why we don’t have a Surgeon General.

Who’s fault is it again?

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