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Florida's surgeon general is heading for confirmation before the full Senate.

Joseph A. Ladapo looks over his should while speaking he wears a dark grey suit, while shirt and burgundy tie. Governor Ron DeSantis can be seen in the backgorund
Chris O'Meara/AP
FILE - Florida Surgeon Gen. Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo looks on before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon, Fla. Ladapo moved closer to Senate confirmation Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, after a tense hearing where Democrats accused the state's top doctor of evading questions on his coronavirus policies and stormed out before casting their votes. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is expected to be soon confirmed by the full Florida Senate. Two Senate committees have recommended his confirmation despite marked frustration from Democrats.

After Democrats walked out during Ladapo’s first confirmation committee hearing, a meeting before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Tuesday was extended in an effort to give lawmakers more time to ask questions.

Ladapo has raised the ire of Democratic lawmakers for his stance on coronavirus issues including testing and masking. During a previous confirmation committee hearing Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) asked Ladapo more than five times whether vaccines are helpful in reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said she felt she wasn’t able to get an answer.

Book also pressed the surgeon general about his refusal to wear a mask last fall while visiting the office of Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) who had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

“I am asking, do you regret the way that you treated our colleague when she asked you to wear a mask and you refused to do so. Yes, or no," Book asked with obvious frustration in her voice.

“I’ll just state that I think it’s important that individuals preferences are respected," Ladapo replied.

Back in October, Senate President Wilton Simpson sent a memo calling Ladopo’s actions “unprofessional.” Ladaop issued his own statement explaining his decision to deny Polsky’s request that he wear a mask, saying he finds they make it difficult to communicate clearly.

Polsky got a chance to ask her own questions during the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. She asked about Ladapo’s involvement with the group America's Frontline Doctors, a right-wing organization that is known for promoting ivermectin as a coronavirus treatment.

Ladopo spoke with members of the group in Washington D.C. last year. During the committee meeting, Polsky asked the surgeon general to describe the organization. Ladapo said he couldn’t give an accurate answer.

“In the photos you were wearing the lab coat of America's Frontline doctors. Why would you wear the coat if you don't know what the organization does, or why would you speak with them if you don't know what they do," Polsky asked

After rephrasing her question Polsky expressed frustration to chair Dennis Baxley, saying she felt she was not getting an answer.

Lawmakers had about 30 minutes for questions before the scheduled committee end, but reconvened later in the evening to continue questioning.

During that time, Lawmakers continued to press Ladapo on this work at the University of Florida, his prior work track record and his stance on vaccines.

Some Republicans called Democrats out for questions they felt were focused on health policy rather than Ladapo's ability to lead the Florida Department of Health.

"It appears to me we’ve gone through a hazing and a badgering of this witness who has given in my estimation incredible response and incredible patience," said Sen. Doug Broxon (R-Pensacola).

Committee members voted along party lines to support Ladapo's confirmation.

Ladapo is an appointee of governor Ron DeSantis. His confirmation goes next for consideration before the full Senate.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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