Procedural Vote May Push Califf Through to Lead the FDA

Support from at least 60 senators during today's procedural vote will ensure a final confirmation vote for Robert Califf, MD, likely Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—in a move to push back the opposition of Robert Califf, MD, as FDA commissioner—has scheduled a procedural vote for today (Monday) afternoon, when the senate regroups following recess. Support from at least 60 senators will ensure a final confirmation vote for Califf, likely Tuesday.

It’s been an uphill battle for the current deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco at the FDA, with specific concerns of biased opinions stemming from past research ties with the pharmaceutical industry. Despite assurance from the HHS the Califf has undergone a thorough screen for conflict of interest, concerns remain. Both Republican and Democratic senators have opposed his nomination to lead the regulatory body.

Califf overcame a big hurdle in January when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted unanimously to approve his appointment to the position. “The FDA is an agency that touches the lives of every American every day and has challenges that the next commission is going to face,” Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said in support. “I believe Dr Califf has the ability to lead that agency as it has been lead so prominently in the past.”

However, according to STAT news, Democratic senators might be preparing for one last fight— Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are planning to talk at length on the Senate floor to convince their colleagues that Califf and the FDA had a very poor response to the opioid epidemic in the United States. The 2 senators also have a press conference planned early in the afternoon to discuss their opposition to the nomination.

Aides to the senators who are opposing Califf say that Califf is most likely to get the required 60 votes on Monday, STAT reports. Subsequent confirmation by the senate will guarantee Califf the highest position at the FDA.