McClellan Nomination as FDA Commissioner Delayed by Medicare Rx Drug Debate
Negotiations between the White House and Congress over a Medicare prescription drug benefit and increases in reimbursements to Medicare providers may delay the nomination of White House health policy adviser Mark McClellan as FDA commissioner, CongressDaily/AM reports. McClellan, who is the leading candidate for the FDA post, has been a key player in the health care debate this year, giving him an "air of indispensibility" to the Bush administration. "It's a question of timing," a House Republican aide said, adding, "He's heavily involved in this year's health care endgame and the administration will have to decide when they want to pull him out." The White House has had difficulty finding a nominee for the position of FDA commissioner, which has been vacant since the start of the Bush administration, in part because Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he will not approve a nominee with ties to an industry regulated by the FDA. Although Kennedy declined to comment on any potential nominations, HELP committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that McClellan's lack of regulatory experience "gives him some pause," CongressDaily/AM reports.
McClellan, a physician and an economist, "is considered confirmable." The Senate already has confirmed him as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and Republicans on the HELP committee are "enthusiastic" about his potential nomination for the FDA post. A spokesperson for Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the HELP public health subcommittee, said that Frist "has the highest praise for [McClellan] and believes he is invaluable to the administration." McClellan has been "quietly visiting committee members," according to CongressDaily/AM, but he would not comment on whether he would be nominated. However, he "defended his background" after a speech Tuesday, saying, "I worked in a teaching hospital. I was involved in a lot of drug trials" (Rovner, CongressDaily/AM, 9/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.