Congress came to a close on Tuesday night with the Senate confirmation of 12 new federal judges and 12 executive appointments – including Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, Sarah Saldaña as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Tony Blinken as deputy Secretary of State. In their entirety, Obama’s confirmed nominees to the federal bench are 42 percent women, 19 percent African-American, 11 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent openly gay men or lesbian women, making this the most diverse group of judges in history.
As of these appointments 9 of the 13 federal Circuit courts of appeals are now composed of a majority democratic appointment. Until recently, 10 out of 13 had a majority appointments by Republican presidents.
Tuesday’s confirmations were made possible by the parliamentary blunder of Senator Cruz and the quick response by Senator Reid to move appointments that had been languishing because of Republican opposition.
Sarah Saldaña was appointed as head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement by a vote of 55-39, and faced nearly unanimous GOP opposition. Saldaña is a US attorney from the Northern District of and Texas, will be the first Latina to hold the position. In a statement President Obama called Saldaña “the right person to lead the dedicated men and women at ICE in securing our borders, keeping American communities safe, and upholding our values.”
With a close vote of 51 to 41, Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the next Surgeon General. Murthy, the 37 year old founder of the group Doctors for America, is the first Surgeon General of Indian-American descent. Murthy’s appointment was held up by Republican Senators for about a year because of his view that gun violence is a public issue. President Obama expressed confidence in Murthy in a recent statement. “Vivek will hit the ground running,” he said, continuing “He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong.”
Media Resources: Huffington Post 12/17/2014; Dallas Morning News 12/16/2014; CNN Politics 12/16/2014