The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy as the nation’s surgeon general Monday in a small victory over the gun lobby, which is rarely defeated in Congress.
The 51-to-43 vote came after the National Rifle Association and its congressional allies blocked Murthy’s confirmation for 10 months over his views on gun regulation.
The vote, along party lines, was part of a push by Senate Democrats to confirm dozens of President Obama’s stalled nominations in the last days of the congressional session before Republicans assume control in January.
Murthy, 37, faced opposition because he was the founder of a group called Doctors for Obama and supported tougher gun laws.
He has said he won’t focus on gun violence as the nation’s lead medical spokesman, a job with little formal power.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delayed a vote on Murthy in February, fearing Dems in tough reelection races would oppose him. The move left the U.S. without a top health spokesman during a near-panic over Ebola.
Obama applauded the confirmation, saying Murthy would 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.”