Showing not a trace of bitterness, Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. said that while his ordeal as President Clinton’s surgeon general nominee ended in failure Thursday, it was an enriching and worthwhile experience because it enabled him to promote his lifelong campaign against teen-age pregnancy.
“This has provided me a platform to get that message out. It’s not as if this is going to go away,” Foster told reporters after the GOP-dominated Senate doomed his nomination by refusing for the second and final time to vote on it.
“This has not been for naught,” he said.
Flanked by 11 of his Senate champions, two of whom blinked back tears, the Nashville, Tenn., obstetrician-gynecologist pointedly thanked “the solid majority” of 57 senators who voted to move the issue forward and allow a vote on the nomination itself. Sixty votes were needed to approve that procedural step.
Had a vote been taken on the nomination, Foster almost certainly would have won because his confirmation required just 51 votes.
“Fairness did not prevail,” Foster said.
The only time that he revealed any real emotion was when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., praised Foster’s “noble career” and added: “Dr. Foster won today and America lost.”
At that point, Foster looked down and, apparently struggling to maintain composure, drew his lips tightly across his face.
Amid the outpouring of praise for Foster at the news conference, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., at times brushed away tears.
President Clinton denounced the Senate vote, saying: “This is not a good day for the United States Senate, but it is a good day for Henry Foster. … Those who denied him the right to a vote, they may have pleased their political bosses, but they have shown a lack of leadership that will surely be remembered.”
Speaking to reporters in Edison, N.J., where he was visiting a Ford auto plant, Clinton repeated his charge that a vote against Foster was also a vote against abortion rights.
“Today, 43 Republicans in the Senate failed the fundamental test of fairness by choosing to side with extremists who would do anything to block a woman’s right to choose,” he said.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Clinton plans to offer Foster a job running a federal program to reduce teen pregnancy - a post that will not require Senate confirmation.
“It’s clear that the president wants him involved in some capacity,” McCurry said.
He also said Clinton plans to look for another surgeon general nominee, but expects that any candidate who favors abortion rights will face the same kind of opposition that brought Foster down.
“We will look for a well-qualified candidate, but it’s going to be complicated by the fact that there is a Republican litmus test for the job,” McCurry said. “It’s going to be very difficult to find people who want to go through the process that Dr. Foster just endured.”
Thursday’s 57-43 Senate ballot in favor of voting on Foster’s nomination was identical to that recorded a day earlier, as 11 Republicans joined all 46 Democrats to head off a threatened filibuster by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.”We are proceeding, I think, in a very fair way,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan.
During the debate, Sen. Robert C. Smith, R-N.H., an anti-abortion arch conservative, displayed graphic and gruesome diagrams of a highly controversial abortion technique - a none-too-subtle attack on Foster for having performed 39 abortions over his 38-year career.
Murray called Smith’s conduct “really outrageous.”
xxxx How they voted Here is how Northwest senators voted Thursday in an attempt to close debate on the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster to be surgeon general. A “yes” vote is a vote to end the filibuster. Idaho. Larry Craig, R, no; Dirk Kempthorne, R, no. Montana. Max Baucus, D, yes; Conrad Burns, R, no. Oregon. Mark Hatfield, R, no; Bob Packwood, R, yes. Washington. Slade Gorton, R, yes; Patty Murray, D, yes.