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On the Hill: FDA Commissioner Nominee Advances

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) last week voted 13–8 to advance the nomination of Robert Califf, MD, as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Califf now awaits confirmation by the full Senate.

Califf’s nomination was met with resistance from some Democratic senators, who believe he is too close to the pharmaceutical industry or have ongoing concerns about the agency’s regulation of prescription opioids.

Congress Considers More COVID-19 Relief

Congress is considering additional COVID-19 supplemental appropriations. Little detail is available on the scope or content of preliminary negotiations, but lawmakers are facing an urgent need for support of school health and safety resources and access to COVID-19 tests, among other needs.

Senate Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he and congressional leaders are awaiting additional guidance from the Biden administration on funding priorities for another COVID-19 relief bill.

Committee Hearing on New Variants

Meanwhile, the Senate HELP Committee last week held a hearing on new COVID-19 variants and the federal response to the pandemic. The meeting included testimony from, among others, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the hearing, senators probed witnesses on COVID-19 misinformation and confusion about CDC guidance; testing availability and a program to distribute tests via mail; and vaccines and boosters. As the virus reaches a record-high number of cases amid the rise of the omicron variant, lawmakers and experts emphasized the pandemic is far from over.

House Republicans Issue RFIs on Heath Policy

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year created the Healthy Futures Task Force to build on Republican health care policy priorities. Recently, the task force issued several requests for information (RFIs) to inform this work, including on digital and telehealth policies and health care affordability.

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About the Author

Christina Fagnano is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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