WASHINGTON — Facing a possible defeat in the Senate, the White House is considering delaying a vote on President Barack Obama's choice for surgeon general or withdrawing the nomination altogether, the New York Times reported Friday, citing unnamed Senate aides and White House officials.
The nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, an internist and longtime political ally of the president, has come under criticism from the National Rifle Association, and opposition from the gun-rights group has grown so intense that it has placed Democrats from conservative states, several of whom are up for re-election this year, in a difficult spot.
The Senate aides said as many as 10 Democrats are believed to be considering a vote against Murthy, who has voiced support for stricter gun control laws.
The troubled nomination is the latest setback for a president who has struggled to get his nominees past members of his own party, even after Democrats changed filibuster rules to prevent repeated Republican blockades of Obama's choices for Cabinet jobs. Murthy is one of four nominees who have run into trouble this month after some Democrats have balked.
The White House said Friday that after the defeat last week of Debo Adegbile, the president's nominee to lead the Justice Department's civil rights division, it became clear that the administration needed to adjust its approach to Murthy's nomination. Adegbile's nomination was shadowed by his involvement in the legal defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his death sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer.
A senior White House official said a range of options was being discussed on Murthy's nomination. They included working with Democratic leaders to gain support, delaying a vote until after the midterm elections, or allowing Murthy to withdraw.