Biden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted to advance the nomination of Robert Califf as commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, moving him one step closer to confirmation.

The panel voted 13-8 in support of Califf, a cardiologist and Duke University researcher, who previously ran the agency at the end of the Obama administration. 

Since he left government, Califf has advised Google Health and its spinoff, Verily Life Sciences.


In 2016, Califf was easily confirmed by a vote of 89-4, but the bipartisan opposition during Thursday's committee vote likely signals that this time will be tighter.

Some Democratic senators had already voiced opposition over his ties to industry and the FDA’s role in the opioid crisis, like Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Dems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill MORE (D-N.H.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Hispanic Caucus lawmaker won't attend meeting with VP Harris's new aide The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE (I-Vt.), who joined six Republicans in voting against advancing the nomination to the floor. 

Ahead of the committee vote, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Martin Luther King III: Biden, senators need to use same energy to pass voting rights as they did for infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) reiterated his disappointment in Califf’s nomination, tweeting that it was an “insult to those who have been impacted by the drug epidemic.”

Sanders also opposed Califf in 2016, though he was not present for the final vote. The votes against him at the time came from Manchin, Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee Overnight Energy & Environment — Manchin raises hopes on climate spending Warren, Democrats ask federal government to resume tracking breakthrough cases MORE (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and former Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBiden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee The 10 races that will decide the Senate majority Manchin, Sanders will oppose Biden FDA nominee Califf MORE (R-N.H.).

On the Republican side, anti-abortion groups have been lobbying hard against Califf, though Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrPublic health expert: Biden administration needs to have agencies on the 'same page' about COVID Top Biden adviser expresses support for ban on congressional stock trades Biden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee MORE (N.C.), the top Republican on the panel, voted in favor of advancing the nomination. 

Califf received additional GOP votes from Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt Romney​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Sunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates Clyburn says he 'wholeheartedly' endorses Biden's voting rights remarks MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann Murkowski​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Clyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' The fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE (Maine).