By a 50-46 vote, the Senate today confirmed Dr. Robert Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The narrow decision reflected opposition to the nomination by several Democratic senators, notably Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who co-wrote a recent op-ed against Califf’s nomination. Six Republicans, including Susan Collins, R-Me., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., voted to confirm. In the run-up to the confirmation vote, Senator Burr urged his colleagues to confirm Califf, arguing that the agency had gone more than a year without a permanent head.
Dr. Califf previously served as FDA commissioner during the Obama administration. In contrast to his narrow confirmation in 2022, his 2016 nomination for the same position was approved by a vote of 89-4. Prior to his confirmation, Dr. Califf served as the FDA’s deputy commissioner of Medical Products and Tobacco and as a cardiologist and professor at Duke University.
Dr. Califf joins the FDA as it prepares for further work in the face of the pandemic and supply-chain issues. Now with a permanent agency head, the FDA also faces calls to action regarding cannabidiol (CBD) in food and beverage products. Additionally, Congress is debating multiple proposals to deschedule and regulate cannabis at the federal level. If these proposals are enacted, the FDA, and Dr. Califf, would play a vital role in shaping the regulatory landscape concerning cannabis. We will continue to monitor developments affecting the industry.