Senate Narrowly Confirms Robert Califf to Lead the FDA

On February 15, 2022, the US Senate narrowly confirmed Dr. Robert Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The vote was 50-to-46, with six Republicans crossing the aisle to support him and five senators who caucus with Democrats opposing him. One senator voted present.

Dr. Califf, who is 70, is expected to be sworn in this week. He faces a looming flurry of decisions, including intense scrutiny of a coronavirus vaccine for children younger than 5 and reviews of e-cigarette applications, such as Juul’s bid to stay on the market.

Five senators who caucus with Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — opposed the nomination.

Six Republicans — Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — tipped the balance for confirmation. Of those Republicans, just one, Ms. Murkowski, is up for re-election and three — Mr. Blunt, Mr. Burr and Mr. Toomey — are retiring.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the interim commissioner, issued a statement on Tuesday, saying she will stay on as a principal deputy at the agency. She has been a target of lawmakers who say the agency spurred the opioid epidemic, which could prove relevant as leaders turn to Congress for new authority to tackle a range of issues.

Dr. Califf spent most of his career at Duke University, where he served as a professor of medicine and founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. He led numerous clinical trials in cardiology, gained experience working with the pharmaceutical industry, and drew widespread respect in the field of medicine.

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