The Food and Drug Administration is getting closer to welcoming a new commissioner, as a Senate panel voted Tuesday to advance the nomination of Dr. Stephen Hahn.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions voted 18-5 to push Hahn’s nomination ahead to a full Senate vote.
Hahn, a cancer specialist and medical executive at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the FDA last month.
With Republicans holding the majority in the Senate, Hahn will almost certainly sail through, but a full Senate vote has yet to be scheduled. The New York Times reported that Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the health committee, is hopeful that a vote will be held by the end of this year.
Following last month’s nomination, Alexander gave an enthusiastic endorsement of Hahn.
“I had an excellent meeting with Dr. Hahn and believe he is well-qualified to lead the FDA. As an oncologist, Dr. Hahn knows firsthand the importance of bringing new, lifesaving drugs and devices quickly through the regulatory process as well as the need for innovation for patients with debilitating and chronic pain. As a successful chief executive, he will bring a guiding hand to an agency tasked with protecting the public’s health,” Alexander said.
Nomination Not Without Scrutiny
At his confirmation hearing last month, Hahn was grilled by senators over how he would respond to the vaping crisis that has left dozens of Americans dead and thousands more seriously ill. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking member on the health committee, pushed Hahn to commit to a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, something that Trump proposed in September but ultimately backed off on.
The president re-opened the matter last month amid heavy lobbying efforts by the vaping and tobacco industries.
Murray said at the hearing that Trump’s flip-flopping demonstrated that the president is “more swayed by the tobacco industry and politics than by children’s health.”
Appearing before the senators at the hearing last month, Hahn was vague when it came to the ban.
“I understand the final compliance is under consideration by the administration,” Hahn said. “I look forward to their decision. I am not privy to those decision making processes, but I very much am in support of aggressive action to protect our children.”
On Tuesday, Murray was one of a handful of Democrats who voted against Hahn’s nomination, which she attributed to his noncommittal stance to the vaping ban.