Washington: In the face of strong opposition from the powerful gun lobby, the White House is standing by President Barack Obama's pick for surgeon general, Indian American Vivek Murthy, an ardent supporter of Obama's healthcare law.
However, it is "recalibrating our approach" as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney put it, to get Murthy, 36, confirmed as "America's doctor" by the Democratic controlled Senate following the defeat of Debo Adegbile, Obama's nominee for the nation's top civil rights post.
If and when confirmed, Murthy would be the first Indian American and the youngest person to become the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the US.
"We expect him to get confirmed ultimately and be one of the country's most powerful messengers on health and wellness," Carney said rejecting media reports that the White House was abandoning Murthy's nomination with some Democrats balking under pressure from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).
"So we're recalibrating our approach," he said noting that Murthy's nomination was approved by the Senate Health committee with bipartisan support.
"Dr Murthy is a dynamic, entrepreneurial practitioner who had dedicated a lot of time, energy and passion to health and wellness." Carney said.
"As Surgeon General, he will be a powerful messenger on these issues in each of the tenets of health: nutrition, activity and resilience," he added.
The New York Times had reported last week that Facing a possible defeat in the Senate, the White House is considering delaying a vote on Murthy's confirmation "or withdrawing the nomination altogether, an acknowledgment of its fraying relationship with Senate Democrats."
Opposition to Murthy's confirmation "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," it said.
The NRA has also written a letter to Senate leadership strongly opposing the Murthy nomination and announced it would score the confirmation vote
"This means a vote for Murthy would count against lawmakers' pro-gun ratings, placing maximum pressure on vulnerable red state Democrats," MSNBC said.
"Murthy has said that his top priority as surgeon general would be the problem of obesity," wrote Paul Waldman in the Washington Post.
"And the post is one with almost no practical power; it's not as though the surgeon general can go around taking anybody's guns away.
"But that doesn't matter. What matters is fear, and the NRA has certainly created a good amount of it," he wrote.
"Republican senators are afraid, Democratic senators are afraid, the White House is afraid, everyone is afraid. And you wonder why people are cynical about politics and government service," Waldman commented.