The White House was forced to search for a new surgeon general nominee after the Senate last week failed to break a filibuster against the confirmation of Henry Foster, M.D.
Arguing that Foster could not lead because he had not been honest about past practices as an obstetrician-gynecologist, including performing 39 abortions, Senate Republicans prevented a vote on Foster's nomination as the nation's leading spokesman on public health issues.
Eleven Republicans joined all 46 Democrats in a call for a final vote on the nomination, but those 57 yes votes were three short of the 60 necessary to break the filibuster. That vote tally was the same in two separate votes.
"I am delighted that we stopped the Foster nomination," said Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), the leader of the filibuster and a presidential candidate.
Republicans objected to Foster's involvement in abortions; his alleged knowledge of an experiment in Alabama in which poor black men with syphilis were left untreated; and the performance of a Nashville, Tenn., teen-age pregnancy-prevention project in which he was involved.
They also questioned his leadership of Meharry Medical College in Nashville because of the loss of accreditation of some of its teaching programs while he was department chairman, dean and acting president.
Democrats, meanwhile, protested the rare use of a filibuster against the confirmation of a presidential appointee. "All I ask of the Senate is for the fairness that has been provided previous nominees: the right to an up-or-down vote," Foster said.