Enzi Might Delay Committee Vote on Crawford Nomination as FDA Commissioner
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Thursday said that he might delay a Wednesday confirmation vote on the nomination of acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford as permanent commissioner to allow more time to increase support for the nominee, CongressDaily reports. Enzi, who supports the Crawford nomination, raised concerns that some senators might move to block a full Senate vote regardless of how FDA rules on an application for over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B (Heil, CongressDaily, 6/10).
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have said that they will place a hold on the Crawford nomination until FDA issues a decision on an application from Barr Laboratories to allow the sale of Plan B without a prescription. FDA in May 2004 issued a "not approvable" letter in response to the original Barr application, which would have allowed the sale of Plan B to any woman without a prescription, and the agency in January delayed a decision on the revised application, which would allow the sale of EC without a prescription to women ages 17 and older. In testimony at a confirmation hearing in March, Crawford told the committee that FDA would approve the revised application "within weeks" (California Healthline, 6/10).
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has said the senator will place a hold on the Crawford nomination because FDA has not required condom packages to include warnings that they do not provide complete protection against sexually transmitted diseases (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/10). Senators cannot place a hold on the Crawford nomination until the committee votes (California Healthline, 6/10).
Enzi said that the Crawford nomination has adequate support to pass the committee but added that he hopes to increase the number of votes, CongressDaily reports. "I want him to come out of the committee with some momentum," Enzi said. He did not identify specific senators who might place a hold on the Crawford nomination "if they dislike the way he rules on Plan B," CongressDaily reports.
A Murray spokesperson on Friday said that the senator only seeks an FDA decision on the revised application. A spokesperson for committee ranking member Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "Democrats have been clear about the intention of the hold, and that's just to encourage a decision" (CongressDaily, 6/10).
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the "political and ideological battles" over the Crawford nomination have "left the FDA without a confirmed leader at a time of tumult and uncertainty."
Peter Barton Hutt, a regulatory attorney and former FDA chief counsel, said, "It makes a great deal of difference if you are an acting commissioner or a fully confirmed commissioner. If you are acting and up for confirmation, there are going to be politically sensitive and emotional issues that you can't deal with because you would be putting you future in jeopardy."
Hutt said that FDA will remain at a disadvantage until the Senate confirms the Crawford nomination (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/12).