Full Senate to Vote on FDA Chief Nomination Thursday

Alicia Ault

December 11, 2019

Correction: The Senate voted today to invoke cloture on the nomination of Dr Stephen Hahn to be the next FDA commissioner, not on final confirmation, as this story originally reported. The confirmation vote is expected to be taken by the full Senate on Thursday, December 12. We apologize for the error.

The US Senate has voted to invoke cloture today on the nomination of Stephen Hahn, MD, to be the next commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a vote of 74-19.

Hahn, a radiation oncologist, lung cancer specialist, and chief medical officer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has sped through the approval process, despite concerns from some Republicans and some Democrats that he was not forthcoming on whether he would aggressively address vaping and the regulation of e-cigarettes.

Dr Stephen Hahn (CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

President Donald J. Trump nominated Hahn on November 1. At his Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee confirmation hearing, members pressed him on his views on vaping and tobacco use among adolescents, and on how he would address drug shortages, among other topics, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

The HELP committee voted 18-5 to confirm Hahn on December 3. But the top Democrat on the panel, Patty Murray (Washington), voted against him, stating, "I'm just not convinced Dr Hahn is the right pick for the job." Murray said she'd keep a close eye on Hahn if he was confirmed.

Just ahead of the Senate cloture vote today, Murray again registered her objections. "I was particularly concerned by his evasive response when it came to how to address skyrocketing youth e-cigarette use," she said, adding that Hahn had refused to commit to implementing a Trump administration pledge to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market that had since been walked back.

"We need a leader at the FDA who will fight for our families and stand up to this administration on this important policy," Murray said.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids had urged the Senate to postpone a confirmation vote until the Trump administration committed to taking flavored e-cigarettes off the market.

HELP committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), however, lauded Hahn, citing his experience at MD Anderson and as a practicing oncologist, and noted that he had been endorsed by the last five FDA commissioners.

"We should be grateful that he's willing to take this job," said Alexander, on the floor, ahead of the cloture vote.

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