Senate OKs Satcher as Surgeon General

By Akers, Mary Ann | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Senate OKs Satcher as Surgeon General


Akers, Mary Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Senate yesterday confirmed Dr. David Satcher to be surgeon general, overcoming conservative opposition to the nominee's record on abortion and AIDS testing to fill a post that had been vacant for more than three years.

"I can think of no one better qualified to be surgeon general," said Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican and the chamber's only physician, who championed Dr. Satcher's nomination in the face of conservative GOP criticism. Lawmakers voted 63-35 to confirm Dr. Satcher, director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after first cutting off a filibuster led by Sen. John Ashcroft, Missouri Republican, on a 75-23 vote. Conservative groups such as the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council had also opposed President Clinton's latest choice to fill the nation's top health position.

The job has been vacant since Dr. Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign in 1994 in the uproar following her comments advocating teaching schoolchildren about masturbation.

"I commend the Senate for voting to make Dr. Satcher the leading voice for our nation's public health," the president said in a statement. "He is a mainstream physician who is an eloquent advocate for the health of all Americans."

The 56-year-old Dr. Satcher will be sworn in on Friday both as surgeon general and as assistantsecretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House announced.

"This is an American dream come true," Dr. Satcher said in a statement after the vote, "to go from a humble farm in Anniston, Ala., to the office of surgeon general, to have the chance to serve the country I love, and to earn the confidence of so many leaders I honor and respect."

Before heading the CDC, Dr. Satcher served as president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., and was on the faculty of the medical school at UCLA.

Mr. Clinton's first choice to replace Dr. Elders - Dr. Henry W. Foster of Tennessee - was defeated when the administration was unable to overcome a GOP-led filibuster in 1994. The surgeon general's post has proven to be a lightning rod for controversies over abortion, sex education and other politically divisive issues.

All of the votes against Dr. Satcher yesterday were cast by Republicans. All 44 Senate Democrats voting yesterday supported the Satcher nomination, joined by 19 GOP lawmakers.

Mr. Ashcroft, who has been heavily courting social conservatives as he readies a run for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination, criticized Dr. …

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