Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a procedural vote on Dr. Robert Califf's nomination of FDA Director for today at 5:30 p.m.
Califf, who is currently agency's deputy commissioner, is President Obama's choice to lead the agency; the Senate Health Committee approved his nomination last month. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) placed holds on his nomination -- though it cannot be filibustered -- because they believe he is too closely tied to the industry and are dissatisfied with the FDA's response to the opioid epidemic.
- According to a STAT, aides to the senators opposing the nomination say Califf will probably get the votes he needs to get back on track for the Senate's final approval.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) lifted the hold she had placed on Califf's nomination earlier this month because she said the FDA had assured her they were addressing genetically modified salmon labeling, Healthcare Dive previously reported. Also during this time, Califf and other FDA top officials launched a plan to combat the country's opioid epidemic, which included changing immediate-release opioid labeling, and supporting better pain-management options.
“We can’t filibuster, but we are going to use up all of the 30 hours to make our case as to why we feel that Dr. Califf is not the right person to lead the FDA,” Manchin’s spokesman Jonathan Kott told STAT. Manchin plans to read letters from West Virginians about how the issue with opioid misuse has hurt their families, Kott added.
Sen. Markey’s spokeswoman Giselle Barry said he plans to talk about the opioid epidemic as well. “In addition to sharing stories from Massachusetts, we’ll also be talking about his particular concerns with the FDA’s opioid approval process; the lack of advisory committees; this very contradictory term of ‘abuse deterrent’ and his general concerns about the FDA not being a particularly tough cop on the beat,” Barry told STAT.