The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted unanimously this week to approve Robert Califf as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the New York Times reports. However, it adds that Califf, a Duke University cardiologist, still has some hurdles to overcome before securing that spot.
Califf was nominated to the post in September, following the departure of Margaret Hamburg. While at Duke, he ran the school's $200 million clinical research institute, which is financed by both government grants and private sector funds. He has also served as a consultant to drug companies, the Times says. This has suggested to some critics, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), that he might be too close to the industry FDA regulates.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has also said that she will put a hold on his candidacy over the agency's approval of genetically modified salmon, the Times adds. Alaska is a major producer of salmon.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, has also indicated he may put a hold on Califf's candidacy, saying that he hasn't done enough to curtail rising drug prices.
Murkowski, Warren, and Sanders are members of the committee, which approved the nomination by unanimous voice vote, the Times notes. Murkowski voted for Califf's nomination as her hold can be placed after the matter leaves the committee.
Califf addressed some of Warren's concerns in a letter, Stat News notes. In a statement, she says she'd looked into Califf's record and is "satisfied that he has conducted himself with integrity as an academic researcher," it adds.
Sanders was not present at the committee vote, and he'd asked that his no vote be recorded, but the committee opted for a voice vote.