Today on the Hill: Califf Vote in the Senate, DHS Bills in the House

February 23, 2016

Senate lawmakers could vote as soon as today to confirm Dr. Robert Califf to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after Califf’s nomination passed a cloture vote yesterday evening by the substantial margin of 80-6. A few in the Democratic caucus, including presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have opposed Califf’s nomination over the pharmaceutical industry’s support for his academic research and questions on the FDA’s approach to combatting the opioid epidemic. In part due to this pressure, the FDA recently agreed to a number of changes in its opioid approval process, including convening an advisory panel meeting before approving new painkillers that do not include an abuse-deterrent feature. Califf’s impending confirmation will mark a rare instance of Republican support for a high-level Obama-nominee to an executive agency. 

Off the floor, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee plan to meet today with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to discuss their strategy for dealing with President Obama’s yet-to-be-named nominee for the Supreme Court. Most Republicans have expressed their preference to withhold consideration of a justice until the next president takes office in January 2017, but Democrats are demanding that the confirmation process proceed this year. Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said that he does not expect a final decision on how to proceed to emerge from today’s meeting, but reiterated that he believes the decision should be an election issue.
In the lower chamber, House lawmakers will consider today a series of measures related to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under suspension of the rules, including a bill (H.R. 4402) that would require DHS to review known instances of individuals traveling from the U.S. to join or support terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. Another measure (H.R. 4408) would compel the Obama administration to craft a national strategy on intercepting and restricting travel by terrorists and foreign fighters. Other bills to be considered today include:

  • S. 2109 – The Directing Dollars to Disaster Relief Act of 2015 would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop plans and clarify guidance related to the delivery of assistance for major disasters.
  • H.R. 3584 – The Transportation Security Administration Reform and Improvement Act of 2015 is designed to make the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) more efficient.
  • H.R. 4398 – The DHS Acquisition Documentation Integrity Act of 2016 would require additional documentation for major acquisition programs for the Department of Homeland Security.  

‘Today on the Hill’ includes updates provided by the House and Senate majority leaders, as well information derived from publications including Bloomberg Government, The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, and National Journal.