Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said Friday that he could not support President Joe Biden's nomination of Robert Califf as head of the Food and Drug Administration over ties to the pharmaceutical industry and due to the ongoing opioid epidemic.
"Dr. Califf’s nomination makes no sense as the opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on families across this country with no end in sight," Manchin said in a statement. "2020 was the deadliest year on record for drug related overdose deaths with 1,386 West Virginians and nearly 95,000 Americans dying from a drug related overdose. I have made it abundantly clear that correcting the culture at the FDA is critical to changing the tide of the opioid epidemic. Instead, Dr. Califf’s nomination and his significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry take us backwards not forward."
"His nomination is an insult to the many families and individuals who have had their lives changed forever as a result of addiction," he continued. "I could not support Dr. Califf’s nomination in 2016 and I cannot support it now. I urge the Administration to nominate an FDA Commissioner that understands the gravity of the prescription drug epidemic and the role of the FDA in fighting back against the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Championing the needs of our nation's public health must be their number one priority."
Califf, currently a professor of medicine at Duke University, previously served as FDA commissioner from 2016 to 2017.
Manchin was one of four senators, along with Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (MA) and Richard Blumenthal (CT), and former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH) to vote against Califf's nomination in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opposed the nomination but did not cast a vote.
This is just the latest instance where Manchin has expressed opposition to Biden's plans. Throughout the year, the senator's refusal to support Democrats' Build Back Better social spending bill at a $3.5 trillion price tag resulted in the framework being cut down to $1.75 trillion because, in a 50-50 majority split in the Senate, every Democrat must vote in favor of the legislation for it to pass.
Biden praised Califf Friday when speaking on his nomination, calling the doctor "one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country" that "has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic."
"As the FDA considers many consequential decisions around vaccine approvals and more, it is mission critical that we have a steady, independent hand to guide the FDA," Biden said in a statement. "I am confident Dr. Califf will ensure that the FDA continues its science and data drive decision-making."