GOP Preventing Confirmation Vote for Surgeon General

October 26, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Following up on Daphne’s piece about the hold-up on Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel, this Roll Call story by Jessica Brady got published on Saturday, so it hasn’t received much attention. It should. Regina Benjamin, the president’s nominee for surgeon general, is being kept out of her job because of a Republican hold. (Hat tip: Steve Benen.)

Benjamin was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Oct. 7, but Senate Republicans are holding up all [Department of Health and Human Services] nominees over a so-called gag order on insurance companies that have been critical of Democratic efforts to reform health care.

“We’ve not received any recent calls from the administration about their nominee,” a senior Republican aide said. “There won’t be any time agreements for confirmation of HHS nominees until their actions have been fully reviewed.”

At issue is an investigation of insurance companies by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the HHS, which announced the probe last month after a letter surfaced from Humana to seniors critical of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill.

CMS officials charged that the letter contained misleading information, a claim Republicans have disputed.

That’s it. Because of that, HHS is working without a surgeon general during the H1N1 outbreak. Local newspapers in the deep South have noticed, and called for Benjamin to get an up-or-down vote, but this issue really hasn’t gotten anywhere in the beltway.

While Benjamin has waited in limbo, Democrats — who ostensibly run the Senate — have held two hearings on whether the president is appointing too many czars.