POLITICS
10/12/2014 12:37 pm ET Updated Oct 13, 2014

John McCain, Czar Hater, Calls For Ebola Czar

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) believes President Barack Obama should appoint a "czar" to lead America's response to Ebola.

"From spending time here in Arizona, my constituents are not comforted. There has to be more reassurance given to them. I would say that we don't know exactly who's in charge. There has to be some kind of czar," McCain said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

"I don't think we're comforted by the fact that we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States," McCain continued. "Obviously that's not correct."

McCain's call for a czar marks something of an about-face for the senator, who has long groused about the Obama administration's use of the appointed officials.

Other Republicans have also seemingly changed their minds on the issue. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who once introduced the "Czar Accountability and Reform Act" to cut off funding for czars, said earlier this month that Obama needed to appoint such an official to help unify the government's response to Ebola.

One potential point person in the fight against Ebola might be the U.S. surgeon general. The problem is that the country doesn't officially have one. Obama's nominee for the position, Vivek Murthy, has had his appointment held up for months in the Senate, largely due to opposition from the NRA. (Former Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak was named acting surgeon general last year, but he has offered few public statements about Ebola.)

Health officials differ on whether it matters that there's no permanent surgeon general at the moment. Michael Leavitt, secretary of health and human services during the second term of former President George W. Bush, recently told The Washington Post that a situation like the Ebola crisis "really isn't [the surgeon general's] responsibility," and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are better equipped to handle it. (Leavitt has been suggested for the czar job himself.)

On the other hand, Regina Benjamin, a former Obama administration surgeon general, told the Post that "we need that level of trust and conversation that there is someone there in Washington as America's doctor."

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