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Mar 08, 2004
 |  BioCentury  |  Politics, Policy & Law

Reimport forces turn up the heat

Mark McClellan's confirmation hearing as the new head of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services was delayed last week as the Bush administration maneuvered around senators who object to McClellan's opposition to drug reimportation. McClellan's confirmation hearing, a critical step in his trip from the FDA commissioner's seat to the top job at CMS, was postponed from March 5 to March 8 to give the administration more time to assuage Senate concerns about the nomination.

No one has suggested that McClellan, who holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics, is not qualified to run CMS. But there is bipartisan anger on Capitol Hill at his opposition to prescription drug reimports. The delay has given the Bush administration's lobbyists sufficient time to gain consensus among the members of the Senate Finance Committee - including its chair, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and ranking Democrat, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) - that the nomination should be sent to the Senate floor, according to congressional staff.

The administration hopes the Senate will confirm McClellan this week, before it takes a one-week recess. To do so, it will have to persuade ardent advocates of reimport to drop plans to block or delay a vote.

Last week, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) criticized McClellan's appointment as chair of an HHS Task Force on Drug Importation. They threatened to block McClellan's confirmation unless he responded to their questions about the...

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