More than a year after taking office in a pandemic, Joe Biden still hasn’t gotten his pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration confirmed. What’s more, Politico reports, it doesn’t look like the White House is doing much about it. Robert Califf’s limbo has less to do with Republican intransigence and more to do with Biden’s progressive allies:
More than two months after picking Robert Califf to be FDA commissioner, the confirmation is stymied by Democratic skepticism of the longtime cardiologist’s regulatory track record and a new GOP push to kill his nomination.
The difficulties have sparked deep frustration among top Democrats and touched off a round of finger pointing, with Califf allies privately blaming the White House for doing too little to shore up support for its own nominee, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity to describe the internal dynamics. …
Just four Republicans — Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — voted for him in committee earlier this month, marking the first public sign of trouble for Califf. In recent days, people familiar with the process have become increasingly concerned about the status of Califf’s nomination.
“If the vote were held today, he would not have the votes,” said one person with knowledge of the matter.
What in the world does Politico’s team mean by GOP support being a “first public sign of trouble”? Republicans don’t have too many reasons to pull Biden’s chestnuts out of the fire, but they’re not the reason Califf can’t get confirmed. Technically, Democrats don’t need any Republican votes to confirm a nominee as long as Vice President Kamala Harris is in town to cast a tie-breaking vote. Having four Republicans support a Biden nominee in committee isn’t a “public sign of trouble” — it’s a green light, especially for someone who served in the same position in the Barack Obama administration.
The real trouble is coming from the Left, and for the reasons you’d imagine, but you have to scroll down a bit from Republicans pouncing® to learn it:
Five Democrats — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) — have signaled opposition to Califf’s nomination, but even more remain on the fence, according to four of the people familiar with their thinking. …
Some lawmakers have cited concern about Califf’s work in the private sector after his last stint at FDA. He most recently led health strategy and policy at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, where financial disclosures show he was paid millions in stock and more than $2.7 million in salary and bonuses. The clinical trial expert also must divest holdings in health care companies including Amgen, Gilead Sciences, Bristol Myers Squibb and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Bear in mind that Califf won confirmation in 2016 by 84-16 in a Republican Senate after being nominated by a progressive president. That was just six years ago. Now, suddenly, Califf’s private-sector work in between administrations has made him unqualified for the same position to which Obama appointed him? Apparently, progressives are prioritizing their anti-corporation feelings over, y’know, effective leadership in a pandemic.
The key question here isn’t Republican pouncing® or progressives’ ongoing hysteria over the corporations, man. It’s that the White House apparently didn’t care what happened to Califf after nominating him in mid-November, almost ten months after Biden took office in the middle of a pandemic. Califf had to have been on Biden’s Rolodex almost from the beginning, so why did it take so long to nominate him to run the one agency in charge of all the vaccines and therapeutics necessary to deal with the COVID-19 scourge? Or anyone, for that matter? This should have been one of the first appointments Biden made outside of Cabinet officials. Califf or someone should have been in charge at FDA long before now.
This is a clusterfark of epic proportions, and it has nothing to do with Republicans. This is all on Biden and his progressive allies.