Senate HELP Committee Expresses No Opposition During Hearing for FDA Commissioner-Nominee Hamburg
Margaret Hamburg, President Obama's nominee for FDA commissioner, on Thursday easily moved through a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing, the New York Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 5/8). During the hearing, no senators expressed opposition to her nomination (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/8).
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) strongly endorsed Hamburg at the hearing, telling her, "I want you to know that I support you, and I intend to help you not only to get through this process but to do your job out there." Hamburg also received endorsements from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and every Democrat who attended the hearing. According to the Times, the "enthusiasm" shown by the senators toward Hamburg might be because many conservatives have expressed reservations about Joshua Sharfstein, who was selected as the agency's principal deputy commissioner but currently is the acting commissioner. Some lawmakers are concerned about Sharfstein's previous ties to Public Citizen and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is a critic of the drug industry (New York Times, 5/8). Hamburg said that reports that she would split oversight duties with Sharfstein -- in which she would be responsible for food and tobacco and Sharfstein would oversee drug issues -- were "quite misleading" (Armstrong, CQ Today, 5/7).
Hamburg told the committee that she would overhaul protection efforts of the nation's food supply to help prevent disease outbreaks. She also said she wanted to restore public confidence in FDA by emphasizing science primarily in agency operations and running procedures in an open and accountable manner (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/8). In addition, she said she would support having the agency regulate tobacco products if Congress asked for the change in oversight. She said that she thinks FDA "is the appropriate agency to regulate tobacco" (CQ Today, 5/7).
The HELP Committee could vote as early as next week to send Hamburg's nomination to the Senate (New York Times, 5/8). Her nomination is expected to move to a full Senate vote before May 25th. Although Hamburg said her major ongoing project would be food safety, her first task likely would be overseeing the development of a vaccine for the H1N1 influenza (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/8).