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Senate Committee Approves Elders as Surgeon General

July 31, 1993|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee on Friday voted 13 to 4 to approve Dr. Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general, and Democrats vowed to seek final approval from the full Senate by next week.

Three Republicans joined committee Democrats in sending the nomination to the Senate floor, where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he would press for a final vote before the planned summer recess.

Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas, one of three committee Republicans to support Elders, said she finally decided which way to vote while driving to work Friday morning. But she added she was worried that Elders' style might attract too much attention.

"I am concerned that if the messenger becomes the focus, the message is lost," she said. "If controversy is the business of the day, substantive policies to help our young people will be sidetracked."

Republicans have attacked Elders' advocacy of sex education, condom distribution, abortion rights and some of her financial dealings. Her remarks on these subjects during her tenure as Arkansas Health Department director have often been blunt.

Her criticism of the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to abortion has been so pointed that the bishop of Camden, N.J., denounced her remarks as "bigoted."

In the end, Kassebaum said Elders "deserves the chance to try to reach young people that no one else now seems to reach." But in an interview later, she added: "I'm sure there will be no final action before September."

Elders' opponents concede that her confirmation by the full Senate, where Democrats hold a 56-44 majority, is virtually assured. But delaying the vote is an option. Short of a filibuster, it would be possible to use Senate rules to stall a vote on her nomination beyond next week.

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