A plan to expedite Robert Califf’s nomination as commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly been delayed because the Biden administration did not submit the necessary paperwork to Congress by a deadline.
Citing three people with knowledge of the matter, Politico reported on Wednesday that a confirmation hearing for Califf will likely be held up until at least mid-December. This means that, in all likelihood, his nomination will not reach a full floor vote in the Senate before the year ends.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) had hoped to hold a confirmation hearing for Califf the week of Dec. 6, sources told Politico, which would have given the upper chamber a small chance of holding a vote on the nomination before senators left Washington for the holidays.
That timeline, however, depended on the administration submitting documents to the committee by Nov. 19, which it failed to do. Paperwork submission, though considered a formality in the confirmation process, enables senators to consider nominees in full.
A Democratic aide to the panel told The Hill on Wednesday that the group received Califf’s paperwork on Monday, and is “reviewing it as quickly as possible, and working with Senator Burr to schedule a hearing as soon as possible.”
According to Politico, however, a White House official said there was no specific date by which the paperwork pertaining to Califf's nomination had to be submitted but rather just an "arbitrary timeline."
The Senate HELP Committee’s rules says that action on a nomination, including hearings or meetings to consider motions to recommend confirmation, “shall not be initiated until at least five days after the nominee submits the form required by this rule unless the chair, with the concurrence of the ranking minority member, waives this waiting period.”
The hurdle in Califf’s confirmation process comes as the top spot at the FDA still remains empty, even as the country has been working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden nominated Califf, a former Obama administration official and Duke University professor, in November. Califf briefly served as FDA commissioner during former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWe must eliminate nuclear weapons, but a 'No First Use' Policy is not the answer Building back a better vice presidency Jill Biden unveils traditional White House holiday décor MORE’s second term in office.
Biden selected Califf as his nominee ahead of an impending deadline to either pick a new chief of the agency or nominate the current acting commissioner, Janet Woodcock.
The president was initially planning to nominate Woodcock to the role, but some Senate Democrats said they would not vote to confirm her because of the agency’s history when it comes to opioid approvals, and beliefs that her relationship with the drug industry was too close, according to Politico.
The Hill reached out to the White House and the FDA for comment.
— Updated at 4:54 p.m.