After finally passing a new $1.1 trillion spending bill over the weekend, the Senate is likely to finish its business for the year this week by confirming about two dozen Obama nominees, including long-delayed surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy.
Ironically, a pair of right-wing senators objecting to Obama’s immigration reform have given Senate Democrats the chance to vote on 12 district court nominees and 11 executive branch nominees.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) forced the Senate to work over the weekend by insisting that the chamber vote on whether President Obama’s executive order on immigration is constitutional.
That vote failed spectacularly, 74 to 22, but it also gave the Senate more time than it otherwise would have had to start the process of confirming nominees that Republicans long blocked.
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“I think most Republicans think that Christmas came early for Democrats,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, expressing frustration with what Cruz and Lee did. “I haven’t seen Harry smile this much in years, and I didn’t particularly like it.”
Murthy’s confirmation as surgeon general has been a particular bone of contention. His nomination has stalled since February, even as U.S. health officials scrambled to respond to the Ebola threat, and the United States has had no surgeon general for a year and a half.
Republicans have opposed Murthy mostly because the National Rifle Association objects to his stance that guns are a public health issue, and that doctors should be able to discuss guns with their patients.
“Gun violence is a public health issue—no apology necessary,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said on the Senate floor Monday during a debate over Murthy’s nomination.
Advocates argue that gun violence is a public health issue for women, especially Black women, due to the prevalence of firearms in domestic violence. More than 30,000 people in the United States die from gun-related violence every year, according to the Violence Policy Center.
Republicans claim that Murthy is too ideological and inexperienced for the position, but his nomination has been endorsed by more than one hundred public health organizations.
The Senate will vote on Murthy’s nomination, as well as that of Sarah Saldana to head the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Other nominees could be confirmed as early as Monday night or as late as the weekend, depending on how much Republicans choose to delay the proceedings.