Senate Panel Votes Unanimously to Back Califf for FDA Commissioner

Deborah Brauser

January 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — It was mostly smooth sailing today for another major step in noted cardiologist Dr Robert Califf's journey toward becoming the next commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The voice vote by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee was unanimous in their approval of the nomination. The next step will be a vote by the full Senate at a later date.

Califf was officially nominated for the FDA's top spot last September by President Obama after the resignation 6 months prior by Dr Margaret Hamburg. One month before Hamburg announced that she was stepping down, Califf had been named the FDA's deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco. And before that, he had a long career in CV medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

Today's approval vote came despite questions that popped up almost immediately after Obama's nomination about the cardiologist's ties to the pharmaceutical industry. This led to Democratic presidential contender Sen Bernie Sanders (D-VT) noting that he would oppose Califf becoming FDA commissioner. However, according to Regulatory Focus[1], the Sanders camp noted that "a senator cannot vote no in a voice vote if he's not present at the hearing."

The publication also reported that even though she voted in favor of Califf's confirmation, Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voiced her own concerns, noting that Califf was not direct with her when she raised questions on genetically modified fish during November's nomination hearing. Committee Chair Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called Califf "the right man to lead the FDA."

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