Surgeon general nominee Murthy clears confirmation hurdle

A congressional panel has approved President Obama’s pick for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, for consideration by the full Senate.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee agreed to move forward in the confirmation process with a roll-call vote on Tuesday.

Vivek Murthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next surgeon general. (AP/Charles Dharapak).
Vivek Murthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next surgeon general. (AP/Charles Dharapak).

Murthy, 36, a Boston-based physician and Harvard Medical School instructor, would be the first Indian-American to become the nation’s top doctor if he is confirmed. But the nominee is controversial among Republicans because of his political advocacy work on behalf of Obama’s first presidential campaign and the Affordable Care Act, as well as his vocal support for stricter gun control measures.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is widely considered to be a candidate for the Republican presidential ticket in 2016, signaled on Wednesday that he would try to block Murthy from being confirmed. But new Senate rules established in November should allow the full Senate to make a decision on the nominee regardless of that effort.

MORE: Rand Paul adds hurdle for surgeon general confirmation

A unanimous voice vote can move the confirmation process to its final stage, but Paul’s objection forces a cloture vote in order for the full Senate to make its decision about whether to approve Murthy. The old Senate rules would have required 60 votes to invoke cloture, but only a simple majority is needed under the new guidelines.

A date for the cloture vote had not been set as of 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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