Senate confirms Biden’s top scientist
The Senate confirmed President Biden’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Eric Lander, in a voice vote on Friday.
Lander will be the first person at the position since Biden elevated it to Cabinet level, and is the last member of Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed.
He faced pushback during his nomination hearing over allegations of downplaying contributions of two female scientists, and over two meetings he had in the past with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Lander apologized during his nomination hearing over a question about downplaying the work of two Nobel Prize-winning female scientists in a 2016 paper.
“I made a mistake, and when I make a mistake I own it and try to do better,” Lander said at the hearing.
He also said that the “sum total” of his interactions with Epstein was meeting briefly at two events within the span of three weeks in the spring of 2012. He maintained that he did not know about Epstein’s “sordid history before that point,” and when he learned about it, “had nothing to do with him thereafter.”
Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said last month while voting to advance Lander’s nomination that she spoke to him about prioritizing the issue of diversity in science.
“Dr. Lander and I have come to a focus and an understanding that the very first task he should focus on is helping all of us add diversity of women and minorities in the science field. So he and I will be working aggressively on that,” she said.
Lander comes to the role after co-chairing the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama administration.