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Tipsheet

Manchin Doubles Down on Opposition to Biden's FDA Nominee

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

Sen. Joe Manchin on Tuesday doubled down on his opposition to Robert Califf, President Biden’s pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration. Califf previously served as FDA commissioner during the final year of the Obama administration.

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In announcing Califf as his nominee, Biden called him “one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country” and said he’d be a “steady and independent hand” to lead the agency through vaccine approvals and other “consequential decisions.”

While Califf was easily confirmed last time around, “old concerns remain” among the three Democrats who voted against him before, according to Politico—all of whom are still in Congress. 

For Manchin, the biggest holdup is the FDA's handling of opioid crisis. He noted that over "500,000 Americans have died since the FDA first approved Oxycontin in 1995." 

“I can’t fathom why we would confirm someone whose actions failed to swiftly curb the tide of the opioid epidemic and protect the public’s health, especially someone who has already helmed FDA as its Commissioner,” Manchin said in a statement Tuesday morning. “Furthermore, Dr. Califf has indicated he plans to keep Dr. Janet Woodcock, who has led the FDA and directly overseen the approval of numerous highly addictive drugs to market, as part of FDA leadership.”

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"We need a leader who is ready for reform in pursuit of improving public health outcomes and Dr. Califf is not that candidate," Manchin added.

On the issue of opioids, Califf acknowledged Tuesday “we have work to do," but said addressing the pandemic would be his top concern if confirmed. 

“We really need to redouble our efforts with omicron on the scene,” he said. “Fundamentally, we have to work together to make the tests available so that they’re not expensive.”

While some Democrats have reservations about Califf, he has been endorsed by six former FDA commissioners, including Scott Gottlieb and Stephen Hahn, both of whom served as head of the FDA under former President Trump. 

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