Senate Confirms Benjamin As Surgeon General
The Senate confirmed Alabama doctor Regina Benjamin as surgeon general Thursday night. Her confirmation, which was approved with a voice vote, comes at a critical time as the nation deals with a swine flu emergency.
The New York Times Caucus Blog reports: "On Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, had taken to the floor to complain that her nomination, along with others, had been held up. Republicans had stalled her confirmation over another issue, the so-called gag order imposed on insurance companies about whether they could inform Medicare beneficiaries about possible cuts to their benefits in the health care bills being negotiated in the House and Senate. The administration has since retreated on that issue. With her nomination stalled, the Department of Health and Human Services had named Dr. Donald Weaver to be the acting surgeon general" (Phillips, 10/29).
The Associated Press reports: "Benjamin was the first black woman to head a state medical society, received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and just last fall received a MacArthur Foundation 'genius grant.' But she made headlines in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with her determination to rebuild her rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., which serves 4,400 patients who would be hard-pressed to find care elsewhere. In nominating Benjamin, President Barack Obama cited her experience with patients at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and her commitment to prevention and wellness programs as a way to head off diseases and complications that could be prevented" (Taylor, 10/29).