Democratic Senator Warns White House He Opposes Top FDA Choice

A senior Democratic senator is pushing back on President Joe Biden’s likely choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration, potentially complicating Robert Califf’s confirmation before he’s even officially nominated.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Tuesday his staff reached out to the White House to express concerns with the news that Biden is considering Califf, who ran the FDA under President Barack Obama, to again lead the agency.

“If he’s nominated I expect I would oppose him,” Blumenthal said.

Former Obama FDA Chief Califf Is Front-Runner to Lead Agency

Blumenthal, along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), voted against Califf’s nomination in 2016 over concerns about his ties to drugmakers. Califf has taken consulting fees from pharmaceutical companies and once led a research group at Duke University that worked closely with the industry.

Markey said Tuesday he’s still looking at Califf’s record from his time running the FDA. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who also expressed concerns about Califf’s nomination in 2016 but didn’t attend his confirmation vote, declined to comment on Califf.

Opposition from his own party means Biden would need support from Republicans to get Califf confirmed. More than 30 Senate Republicans who voted for Califf in 2016 still serve in the Senate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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