The FDA Commissioner and the USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety are the primary officials responsible for ensuring food safety for Americans.
More than 60 days ago, President Biden appointed Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner and Jose Emilio Esteban as USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety.
Califf and Esteban need Senate confirmation before they can assume their presidential nominations. Califf, who served as FDA commissioner under President Obama, made headway Thursday with a 13-8 vote in favor by the Senate “HELP” committee.
This prepares Califf for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. If confirmed, Califf will become Biden’s first permanent FDA commissioner. Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock is the temporary boss of the FDA.
Socialist Bernie Sanders, Democrat Maggie Hassan and six Republicans voted against Califf in the committee vote. Califf is a cardiologist who enjoyed bipartisan support when he first came out, but there were concerns about ties to the pharmaceutical industry this time around.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, however, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, announced that Califf had passed the required ethics review with no findings of conflict of interest.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on Califf’s nomination Dec. 14, but did not vote on the nomination.
Esteban’s appointment as USDA’s Undersecretary for Food Safety is moving more slowly. His appointment came on Nov. 12, 2021, about 10 days after Califf’s.
His nomination was referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on November 15, 2021. The last 60 days have passed without a hearing or vote on Esteban’s nomination.
At the start of each new presidential term, there are approximately 4,000 politically appointed jobs to be filled in executive and independent agencies. According to Washington Post and the Public Service Partnership, more than 1,200 appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.
WP/Partnership is tracking “candidates for approximately 800 of those 1,200 positions, including cabinet secretaries, chief financial officers, legal advisers, ambassadors, and other critical leadership positions.”
Tracking in mid-December found that President Joe Biden’s total confirmations had edged past that of former President Donald Trump, but still fell short of President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush at this point. of their presidencies. In other words, the Trump/Biden era is slower for nominations than the previous two administrations.
After nearly a year in office, Biden hasn’t named anyone to fill 146 of the 798 jobs tracked. Seven picks are pending official nomination.
And 183 candidates, like Califf and Esteban, are retained in the Senate process. The Senate has confirmed 268 of Biden’s nominees, who are available to help the president lead the government.
In the first 11 months of Trump’s presidency, 238 candidates had won Senate confirmation.
The Senate last confirmed Califf as commissioner of the FDA in an 89-4 vote in February 2016. The cardiologist served as commissioner of the FDA during the final months of the Obama presidency.
The opioid epidemic was a dominant issue during his tenure. Califf was in favor of allowing drug companies to advertise their products more.
After leaving government, Califf joined Verily Life Sciences.
He served as Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Health at Duke University. Califf remains an adjunct professor of medicine at Duke and Stanford University and sits on the board of a biopharmaceutical company Cytokinetics.
When announcing the appointment, Biden called Califf “one of the most experienced clinical testers in the country and has the experience to lead the [FDA] at a critical time in our country’s fight to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Jose Emilio Esteban
As FSIS’s chief scientist, Esteban would provide scientific advice in support of agency policies, including microbiology, chemistry, and pathology.
This is his fourth position with FSIS, all with the Office of Public Health Science. Prior to his current assignment, he was Executive Partner for Laboratory Services, Scientific Advisor for Laboratory Services and Research Coordination, and Laboratory Director for the Western Laboratory.
Prior to joining the USDA, he worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer, Epidemiologist, and Deputy Director of the Office of Food Safety.
Outside of the US Federal Government, Esteban is also Chairman of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Committee on Food Hygiene. This committee establishes the definitions of international food hygiene standards for international trade. He is also currently Vice President of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).
Esteban trained as a veterinarian in Mexico and completed his training with an MBA, a master’s degree in preventive veterinary medicine and a doctorate. in epidemiology from the University of California-Davis.
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