Erin Herbst, Blog Post #5

Senate Balks at Obama Pick for Surgeon General

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/us/senate-balks-at-obama-pick-for-surgeon-general.html?src=me

In an article published Friday, The New York Time’s reporter Jeremy Peters laid bare the tremendous sway the National Rifle Association may have in the Senate’s pending approval of Dr. Vivek K. Murthy as Surgeon General. Recently nominated by President Obama for the position, Dr. Murthy is an “internist and political ally” of the Democratic party, and has “voiced support for various gun control measures like an assault weapons ban, mandatory safety training and ammunition sales limits.” While an unnamed White House official says “We expect him [Murthy] to ultimately get confirmed,” Peters reminds readers that “The N.R.A. is a powerful political force in many of the states where Democrats face their greatest threats this year in efforts to keep control of the Senate — like Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana.” The gun-rights advocacy group has already sent a “grass roots alert” to its millions of email subscribers urging them to contact their senators and “ask them to oppose confirmation of President Obama’s  radically antigun nominee.” Furthermore, the NRA has pledged to “score” any confirmation vote which means “voting yes” to appoint Muthry “would negatively affect a senator’s annual rating from the [NRA].”  So far the organization’s efforts have proved successful, as Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, a Democrat who is up for re-election in this year’s midterms and one who has received many “angry letters from Alaskans who say they are alarmed by what they believe are Dr. Murthy’s antigun views,” recently wrote to his constituency “I will very likely vote ‘no’ on his nomination if it comes to the floor.” 

While the Appointments Clause of the Constitution gives President Obama the power to appoint certain public officials, he may do so only with the “advice and consent” of the U.S. Senate. The anticipated resistance from the Senate in response to Muthry’s nomination illustrates the system of checks and balances at work in today’s Legislative and Executive branches. Personally, I find the NRA’s promise to “score” Senators who vote in favor of Muthry (which could in turn negatively affect their chances of re-election this year) to be an unabashed attempt at heckling Senators into an anti-gun-regulation stance, which runs incongruent with “many Americans stand on gun control.”  In many ways, this issue seems to indicate that the pressure of midterm-elections have left Senators –particularly those in swing states– hostage to the approval and pressures of the NRA, which holds a tremendous influence on today’s more conservative voters. At the same time, however, I think the fact that Senator’s seem to be aware of their precarious  status amongst state voters, and are in turn expressing a desire to act on their constituency’s desires, shows that our Senate, at least to a degree, is acting in reflection of the American citizens they are intended to represent.

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