Surgeon general nomination set for today Disease control director picked, ending long delay

September 12, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Trying to fill a high-profile position that has been vacant for more than two years, President Clinton plans today to nominate Dr. David Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to be surgeon general.

Administration and congressional officials said yesterday that Satcher -- an expert in sickle-cell disease whose wide range of public health concerns extends to illegal drugs, gun violence, rTC tobacco, and teen-age pregnancy -- would also be appointed assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

That combination, sought by department Secretary Donna E. Shalala, would add a policy-making job to the surgeon general's role as public health spokesman.

Clinton's last nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr., was blocked in the Senate in June 1995 after a lacerating confirmation battle. Republicans objected to Foster's record of performing abortions in his 38 years as an obstetrician-gynecologist.

The White House ousted Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, whose views on drugs and sexuality had outraged conservatives, in 1994.

Administration officials expressed confidence yesterday that Satcher, who in addition to his clinical work practiced medicine for several years as a family doctor, would pass muster.

"He's gone through one of the most vigorous vetting processes on prior statements and views, given the experience with Dr. Foster," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "At a time when nominees are generally going through a much more extensive vetting process, his has been been even greater."

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Satcher "has never performed an abortion."

Some senators may question Satcher about his work as a consultant to Hillary Rodham Clinton's task force on health care reform. He also might be asked about his 1993 comments that he was comfortable with then-Surgeon General Elders' support of condom distribution in schools.

Clinton plans to nominate Satcher, who is 56, at the White House at noon today. Satcher impressed aides to Clinton when he advised the White House last spring on how the president should apologize to the surviving victims of the government's infamous Tuskegee experiment on untreated syphilis in black men.

The office of the surgeon general has a tiny budget and a small staff, but previous occupants, such as C. Everett Koop, have turned it into a powerful megaphone. The job of assistant secretary for health would give Satcher more of a say inside in developing health policy.

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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