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Senator Burr Applauds Senate Confirmation of Dr. Robert Califf to Serve as FDA Commissioner

Burr: Dr. Califf knows the agency well, understands the value of the innovation underway in academia, and knows firsthand how the private sector is advancing cutting-edge science that can benefit all Americans.

Today, the U.S. Senate voted 50-46 to confirm Dr. Robert Califf to be the Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

Ahead of today’s vote, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), spoke on the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support this critical nomination at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency that has not had a Senate-confirmed Commissioner since the beginning of the Biden Administration.

 Sen Burr Makes Floor Speech on Dr. Califf Nomination

WATCH: Senator Burr urges his colleagues to support the nomination of Dr. Califf ahead of today’s vote.

Senator Burr’s full floor speech as prepared:

“I rise today in support of the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to be the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. As the Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, and as a fellow North Carolinian, I would like to share with my colleagues that Dr. Califf is a supremely qualified nominee with bipartisan support. 

“He has the robust agency and private sector experience needed to help build on the success of the FDA in helping get Americans back to normal life with the approval of tests, vaccines, and therapeutics that are bringing the pandemic to an end.

“He is the leader we need today, but also for the future.

“I will take a few minutes to explain why.

“It has been 391 days since the FDA has had a Senate-confirmed Commissioner.

“No matter how effective and successful an acting Commissioner may be, and we’ve been blessed with Janet Woodcock’s leadership, the full backing of a Presidential nomination and confirmation by the United States Senate carry a weight that allows a confirmed Commissioner to push forward necessary, meaningful change and leadership within a federal agency.

“There has never been a more critical time for the FDA to have effective leadership.

“While the FDA has long played a leading role in the lives of every American, regulating 20 cents of every dollar spent in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the actions of the FDA during the response to the dinner table conversation of every family in this country. 

“In the 391 days since our last confirmed Commissioner stepped down, there have been two new serious variants of the COVID virus, case counts that topped one million per day, shortages of vital therapeutics and diagnostic tests, and tragically the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives.

“The FDA has and will continue to play a leading role in our response to this once-in-a-century pandemic.

“The agency’s unprecedented work helped innovators bring forward countermeasures – tests, treatments, and vaccines – that have helped us withstand and fight back against this virus, and instilled hope in Americans in some of the darkest moments of the pandemic.

“The FDA made significant progress to advance medical product development.

“As new cases continue to slow and spring approaches, we are at what I am hoping is an inflection point.

“Mask mandates are lifting, children are back in school, and FDA is ready to move into this next phase of the response that will hopefully get us back to normal.

“The FDA needs a leader that will not lose sight of the progress it has made.

“The silver lining of COVID has been its ability to show the value of American innovation and ingenuity.

“No one understands that better than Dr. Califf. His expertise in translational science means that he understands what it takes to transform an idea from the research bench into a real solution for patients.

“COVID catalyzed the FDA and the private sector to compress the timeline of that transformation, without sacrificing our world renowned gold standard for safe and effective medical products.

“Platform technologies were developed through programs like Operation Warp Speed and Rad-X that put us leaps and bounds ahead.

“These types of technologies are force multipliers – allowing us to bring new options to patients with cancer, infectious diseases, and life-threatening conditions by adapting the same underlying technology.

“We need a Commissioner that understands and will advance these breakthroughs.

“I urge my colleagues to support Dr. Califf’s nomination because he will provide the leadership needed to promote today’s biomedical advancements and help to pave the way for tomorrow’s innovation. 

“As many know, I have been one of the FDA’s toughest critics over the years. However, I am critical because I believe in the agency’s mission, and know that American patients pay the price if the FDA falls behind.

“The FDA has an opportunity to be forever changed for the better, but it needs effective leadership to get there.

“Dr. Califf knows the agency well, understands the value of the innovation underway in academia, and knows firsthand how the private sector is advancing cutting-edge science that can benefit all Americans.

“I urge my colleagues to support the nomination of Robert Califf.”

To watch Senator Burr’s floor remarks, click here.

On January 13, 2022, the Senate HELP Committee voted 13-8 to advance Dr. Califf’s nomination to the full Senate for consideration. To read Ranking Member Burr’s prepared statement for the record ahead of the Committee’s vote, click here.