Texas Sen. Phil Gramm said Sunday he would use a Senate filibuster if necessary to block pending confirmation of Dr. Henry Foster, President Clinton’s choice for U.S. surgeon general.
In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gramm also said that if he were elected president, he would not work to overturn the legal right to abortion.
The senator denied that the Tennessee obstetrician/gynecologist’s abortion rights stance alone had prompted him to promise a filibuster.
“It’s a combination of things. It’s that he routinely performed (abortions), that he performed involuntary sterilization and that he didn’t level with us about it,” said Gramm, who is seeking the 1996 Republican presidential nomination.
He added, “There is one litmus test, and that is being honest.”
A White House spokesman said the administration hopes the Senate will keep an open mind in reviewing Foster’s record.
“We believe that Dr. Foster’s outstanding public health record, especially his long-standing commitment to combating teen pregnancy, speaks for itself.”
Medical experts have said Foster’s sterilization of severely retarded women some years ago was standard practice at the time.
Foster, since his nomination was announced, has revised upward the number of abortions he has performed during his medical career.
A filibuster could thwart a vote on Foster’s nomination unless twothirds of the Republican-controlled Senate agrees to take up the matter. Hearings on the nomination are not expected to begin before May.
Regarding a possible constitutional amendment to ban abortion, Gramm, a longtime abortion foe, said, “I would not see that as part of my mandate” if elected president.
He added, “I don’t believe there is a consensus in the country to amend the Constitution” and overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Such an amendment, however, is a priority for many Republicans, including members of the powerful Christian right.
Gramm, who will not rule out choosing a running mate who supports abortion rights, promised to keep federal tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions unless the life of the mother were in danger.