Dr. John Armstrong faces another close vote on confirmation
Gov. Rick Scott’s surgeon general will again be on the hot seat Tuesday afternoon in what could be a close vote for Dr. John Armstrong to keep his job.
Armstrong, who is also secretary of the Department of Health, will have his second confirmation hearing in the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee.
For the past year, the surgeon general has been under fire for the removal of kids from the Children's Medical Services program, the repeal of standards for pediatric heart surgery, the slow rollout of medical marijuana and rising HIV infections amid cutbacks to county health departments, highlighted by Times/Herald reporting last month.
He cleared his first committee hearing — Health Policy — last week on a 5-4 vote, with Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and the committee’s four Democrats voting against him. Sens. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, had voiced concerns but ultimately decided in favor of Armstrong.
In Ethics and Elections, he’ll need the support of six senators. The 10-member committee includes six Republicans and four Democrats.
It’s likely Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, will vote against Armstrong Tuesday as he did in Health Policy. What’s not clear is how many other Democrats will vote alongside him.
Flores last week said that she “didn’t quite get the answers I needed” to vote for Armstrong. If she sticks to her “no” vote and all four Democrats join her, Armstrong’s confirmation would be virtually dead, meaning would likely lose his $141,000-a-year job.
Technically, Senate rules do not require committee approval of the governor’s appointees. The chamber’s leadership could schedule a final vote on Armstrong by the full Senate without the Ethics and Elections Committee’s support.
Not only would that be unusual, but President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said he doesn't support doing that for any of Scott's appointees.
“No,” Gardiner said, “they will have to go through Ethics and Elections.”