Biden’s FDA nominee faces uncertain Senate vote

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President Biden’s candidate to lead the FDA, Robert Calif, is facing a surprisingly tight confirmation vote in the Senate.

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Between the lines: A handful of Democrats have already announced their opposition over concerns about their drug industry ties or the FDA’s record on the opioid epidemic, and many others may be on the fence.

  • But the politics of abortion — not to mention the opportunity to sink a Biden candidate — complicates what these defectors strive for with the Republican vote.

Running news: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is due to vote on his nomination today, and it is likely to pass.

  • But whether his nomination has votes for passage on the Senate floor is a sticky question, even if he was the first Confirmed by 89-4 vote To lead the agency during the final year of the Obama administration.
  • life support group Members are urged To vote against Calif’s nomination, a wrinkle that certainly makes it a difficult decision for Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to vote for him.
  • “It’s going to be a nail-biter by the end,” said a senior aide on the help committee.
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big picture: The FDA has been without an approved commissioner for nearly a year — a difference that has become more apparent as the pandemic drags on.

  • but the agency Recent Verdict Permanently allowing patients to receive abortion pills by mail has drawn intense criticism from pro-life groups.
  • He also accused Calif. of having a “track record of the demands of the rubber-stamping abortion industry” in a letter sent to senators yesterday.

state of play: At least three Democrats – Sens. Joe Munchkin, Bernie Sanders And Maggie Hassan – has already said that they will not vote for Calif’s confirmation.

  • Hasan declared a protest This week, it said Calif would not do enough to change the FDA’s approach to the country’s substance abuse epidemic. Sanders criticized him for being too close to the pharmaceutical industry, and Manchin cited both of these concerns.
  • Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who voted against Calif’s confirmation in 2016, has said he has “severe reservations” as he did then. Munchkin and Sen Ed Markey too voted against him in 2016.
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Intrigue: In an equally divided Senate, each Democratic defector must be replaced with a Republican vote for its passage. According to aide to the Help Committee, so far only three — sans Richard Burr, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney — plan to vote yes. Everyone is on the committee.

  • Spokespersons for Collins and Romney did not respond to requests for comment about their position, although Collins told Politico last month She supports the nomination. Burr said at Calif’s confirmation hearing that he intended to support her.
  • Of the other 47, “work is being done to secure more votes,” the aide said, although Sen. Lisa Murkowski is seen as a possible yes vote. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
  • Concerns related to abortion have made it very difficult to find votes. Sen. Roger Marshall’s spokesman, Joe told Politico last month That he supported Calif’s confirmation told Nerdshala last night that he no longer does so due to pro-life concerns.

Republican’s Dilemma: If they let Calif’s nomination fail, it’s far less likely that they’ll better like Biden’s next nominee.

  • Calif is generally regarded as a capable and comfortable pick for the pharmaceutical industry, at least relative to more progressive alternatives. And Biden certainly isn’t going to nominate someone who would take back abortion rights through agency regulation.
  • “While some Republicans will support his nomination, it is unclear whether this is enough to pass the de no votes,” a senior GOP Senate aide emailed. “A little devil you know versus the devil you don’t have the mindset.”

What are they saying: “We are confident they will be confirmed with bipartisan support and it is important to reaffirm leadership in the midst of the pandemic,” said White House spokesman Chris Meagher.,

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