Obama's FDA chief overcomes hurdle

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The Senate voted 80-6 to end debate on President Obama's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), moving the nomination one step closer to confirmation.

Four of the six no votes on Obama's nominee came from Democrats. A final vote on Robert Califf's nomination is expected as soon as Tuesday. 

Despite widespread support, Califf has drawn opposition from senators in both parties over concerns about his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA's strategy to combat an opioid epidemic.
Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill MORE (R-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanJuan Williams: Electoral map looks grim for Trump McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video Liberal super-PAC hits Johnson for supporting Trump MORE (R-Ohio), who face tough reelection bids, joined with Democratic Sens. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDems press ITT Tech to give students right to sue Senate amendments could sink email privacy compromise Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges MORE (Conn.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Dem senator: Sanders ‘doesn’t have a lot of answers’ Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges MORE (W-Va.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDem senators call for sanctions on Congo Honor Frank Lautenberg by protecting our kids Sanders pans chemical safety reform deal MORE (Mass.) and Bill NelsonBill NelsonTen senators ask FCC to delay box plan Senators to House: FAA reauthorization would enhance airport security Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz MORE (Fla.) to vote against moving forward on Califf's nomination. 
Ayotte and Portman have made bolstering the federal government's ability to prevent and treat drug addiction center to their reelection campaigns.
Markey and Manchin suggested earlier Monday that while they likely wouldn't be able to prevent Califf from being confirmed, they would use his nomination to try to force a debate on opioid and heroin addition that would stretch into the appropriations process.  
"This is the beginning of a long struggle," Markey said. "We need the FDA to be a top cop on the beat, not a rubber stamp." 
With Califf currently serving as a deputy commissioner for the FDA, Manchin added that the next commissioner must be willing to take the agency in a different direction. 
The two Democrats suggested they would use part of the 30 hours allowed under Senate rules before the final vote to read letters from their constituents who have been impacted by addiction. 
The Senate's Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee easily approved Califf's nomination last month.
Deaths from prescription drugs and heroin overdose reached an all-time high in 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

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