Manchin Blasts Biden’s FDA Pick, Alleges He Shares ‘A Great Deal Of Responsibility’ For The Opioid Epidemic

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin blasted Dr. Robert Califf, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, saying that he shared blame for the opioid epidemic.

“In the five years since Dr. Califf was [first] confirmed, more than 400,000 Americans and 5,000 West Virginians have died from drug-related overdose,” Manchin said, going on to describe how yearly deaths had only risen throughout the pandemic. “Let’s not beat around the bush. Dr. Califf bears a great deal of responsibility for these deaths.”

Califf was first nominated under former President Barack Obama, and was confirmed with bipartisan support. Manchin was one of just four senators who opposed him then, and immediately came out against him when Biden nominated him in November.

“We have a luxury with this nomination that we are not usually granted because Dr. Califf has already served as the FDA commissioner,” Manchin said. “We have insight into how he will lead the agency. Under Dr. Califf’s previous tenure, drug-related overdoses went up. Five years later they’re up again, and this time at record numbers.” (RELATED: The Pandemic Has Led To More Drug Overdoses In A 12-Month Period Than At Any Point In US History)

“The wise Dr. Maya Angelou famously said, ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them,’” Manchin added.

Dr. Robert Califf testifies before his nomination hearing in late 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Dr. Robert Califf testifies before his nomination hearing in late 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Manchin also blamed one of Califf’s senior advisers, Dr. Janet Woodcock, saying that she “bears more responsibility for the opioid epidemic in our country than any other person at the FDA,” citing her oversight of the five new opiates brought to market under her tenure and her role in approving Oxycontin in 1995.

The West Virginia senator went on to recall the story of a young girl named Lauren Cole in his state who had a promising future but privately battled addiction. When she finally told her family they stepped in to help her, and while she recovered and got her life back on track, she fatally relapsed during a COVID-19 quarantine.

“Dr. Califf’s nomination is an insult to Lauren’s memory and the millions of families who have lost a loved one at the hands of this epidemic,” Manchin said. “I cannot for the life of me understand why this administration is so committed to asking each of us in the Senate to reconfirm a person who had the opportunity to make a difference, but instead showed us who he really was.”

“I will vote no on Dr. Califf’s nomination,” Manchin added. “And I have never been more profoundly confident of a vote I’m going to cast than I am right now.”

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