Watch CBSN Live

Will the U.S. finally get a surgeon general?

For months, the U.S. has been without a surgeon general, a largely ceremonial position affectionately dubbed "the nation's top doctor." That could change with the Senate Democrats' final days in office.

Mr. Obama's nominee for the post, Dr. Vivek Murthy, cannot start his new job without first being confirmed by the Senate. However, his nomination fell victim to congressional gridlock over a lightning-rod political issue: guns.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, blocked Murthy's nomination in February, arguing his non-clinical experience working with an offshoot of a pro-Obama campaign group made him overly political for the job.

Among Murthy's sins, according to his detractors: promoting Obamacare in his role as co-founder of Doctors for America, including a tweet that tweaked the NRA while making his health care argument:

After another high-profile Obama nominee was blocked, the White House decided to ease up on pushing for Murthy's confirmation. But a senior Democratic aide told CBS News that he is likely to finally get a vote during the final days that Democrats have control of the Senate.

Because of a rule change earlier this year, he will only need 50 votes for confirmation. Waiting until Republicans take control in 2015 would all but certainly spell the end of Murthy's chances.

But it's not entirely clear that he will be confirmed. Some red-state Democrats who take pride in their record on gun control could oppose the nomination, even though they lost their seats in the 2014 midterms.

Alaska Democrat Mark Begich, for example, said in a letter to constituents earlier this year that he had concerns.

"While the Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on Dr. Murthy, I have already told the White House I will very likely vote no on his nomination if it comes to the floor," Begich said in the letter, according to his office. He said that besides concerns about Murthy's position on gun control, he also is concerned about Murthy's political advocacy and lack of experience as a practicing physician.

Begich lost his re-election bid to Republican Dan Sullivan in November.

View CBS News In