Posted 12 January 2016
By Zachary Brennan
The US Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions (HELP) on Tuesday voted in favor of letting the full Senate vote to approve Robert Califf as the next Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner.
HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called Califf “the right man to lead the FDA,” as others offered their support.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said back in November she would put a hold on Califf’s nomination, said at the hearing that she “got a little hot under the collar” when Califf failed to offer any specifics on genetically-engineered salmon two days before FDA approved the fish for consumption.
“What I would like to make clear is that we have attempted to address some of these issues through the omnibus appropriations,” which requires FDA to not allow the introduction into interstate commerce of genetically-modified salmon until there’s final guidance on labeling.
“I want to make sure FDA knows voluntary labeling guidelines is not sufficient,” Murkowski said.
Alexander, however, called on Murkowski to make her conversations with FDA over the genetically-modified salmon “speedy” so that Califf can be confirmed and take the helm at FDA.
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) released a statement after the hearing that he would vote against Califf. [Editor's note: Sanders has since changed the press release announcing his no vote since apparently a Senator cannot vote no in a voice vote if he's not present at the hearing.]
“We need someone who will work to substantially lower drug prices, implement rules to safely import brand-name drugs from Canada and hold companies accountable who defraud our government. Dr. Califf is not that person. His extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry give me no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than pharmaceutical industry CEOs who are more focused on making obscene profits than saving lives,” Sanders said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who previously raised questions about Califf’s collaborations with industry, told the committee Tuesday that she only had a statement for the record.