"I don't believe it's appropriate for America’s number one doctor to participate in political activism," Manchin said. "After meeting with Dr. Murthy, I don't question his medical qualifications; I just question whether the public will believe that he can separate his political beliefs from his public health views."
Murthy will be the country's first Indian-American surgeon general, serving as the United States' chief spokesman on matters of public health. He'll be the first Senate-confirmed surgeon general since the position was vacated on July 2013, replacing Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak.
"I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General," Obama said in a statement. "As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. He'll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong. Vivek will also help us build on the progress we’ve made combatting Ebola, both in our country and at its source."
The nomination stalled early in 2014 as numerous Democrats were spooked by opposition from the NRA, which objected to his past comments that gun violence was a public health issue, and his support for gun control measures like universal background checks and a prohibition on assault weapons. Prior to the vote on Monday, the gun lobby attacked Murthy and told HDT it would grade senators on how they vote.
Murthy has been willing to needle the NRA:
Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they're scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #debatehealth— Vivek Murthy (@vivek_murthy) October 17, 2012
"Dr. Murthy is right," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said. "Gun violence is a problem that this country should be addressing."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) teed up the vote during a dramatic weekend session in which stalling on the spending bill by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave him an opening to move forward.
Confirmation required a simple majority as opposed to 60 votes, due to new rules established by Senate Democrats in 2013. Just after the vote, Reid, whose gun control push was scuttled amid NRA opposition last year, tweeted:
Thank you to all who raised your voices and urged the Senate to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy. You made a big difference. We have a #TopDocNow— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) December 15, 2014
Born in England and raised in the Florida, Murthy has an MD and MBA from Yale. He has worked as a physician-instructor at Harvard Medical School, created the anti-HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization VISIONS and co-founded Doctors For America (originally Doctors For Obama) in 2008. He's supported by more than 100 medical and public health groups.
Leading the opposition to Murthy was Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who is next in line to chair the Senate health committee. "Unfortunately," he said, citing the nominee's advocacy for Obama and his remarks on guns and health, "Dr. Murthy's experience does not demonstrate the leadership and knowledge of public health that we expect from our surgeons general."
This article was updated to add a statement by President Obama.