By Elise Viebeck - 02/27/14 04:42 PM EST
President Obama's nominee for surgeon general is one step closer to confirmation after the Senate health committee approved him for the job on Thursday.
The Senate will likely confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy in the coming weeks despite a move by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to block the nomination over concerns about Murthy's stance on guns.
This affiliation and Murthy's previous comments supporting gun control have made his nomination controversial with Republican senators.
Paul, placing a hold on the nomination this week, said he had "serious concerns" about Murthy's ability to be politically impartial as surgeon general.
"Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being surgeon general because of his intent to use that position to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm,” Paul wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday.
The National Rifle Association reportedly urged senators not to support Murthy's nomination for similar reasons in a letter Wednesday night.
Nonetheless, Democrats say they have the votes and that Paul's hold will matter little given the rule change last year year that allows a simple majority vote to overcome Senate filibusters of most nominees.
In a statement Thursday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) praised Murthy as suited to the post of surgeon general.
"The surgeon general is uniquely positioned to develop and implement strategies to promote health and wellness and to drive disease prevention strategies in our nation," Harkin said.
"Dr. Murthy’s extraordinary medical and public health accomplishments show that he is well-qualified to continue that mission."