- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2006

Adlai Stevenson noted that a “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.” This year, the target being chopped is the Food and Drug Administration. In the Senate, the most recent variation of this axe-wielding has been to pick an issue near and dear to a particular group to which a pol is beholden (ideologically and financially) and hold up the confirmation of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach as FDA commissioner until a senator gets a vote on something it wants.

First Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray held up his nomination until they received a decision on the nonprescription marketing of a pill that prevents pregnancy called Plan B. Such actions were hypocritical, given senators’ stated insistence on preserving the FDA as a “science-based agency.”

Now that the Plan B issue has been decided, it is not surprising that Republican senators are now placing holds on the von Eschenbach nomination that are as political and hypocritical as those of their Democratic colleagues. Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter placed a hold until he gets a commitment for a pilot project to allow drugs to be imported from Canada. Mr. Vitter has already sought to bar Customs agents from inspecting packages of drugs from Canada to see if they are fake. The senator now asserts he is promoting free trade. Yet last year he claimed that additional sugar imports from Central America and the Dominican Republic under a free trade agreement would “flood the U.S. market and devastate the Louisiana sugar industry as domestic sugar is displaced by highly subsidized foreign imports.” But Central America’s sugar industry is not subsidized, while at $1.2 billion annually the U.S. sugar subsidy program is equal to nearly a third of Nicaraguan GDP.

Meanwhile Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina says he will hold up the von Eschenbach nomination until the abortion pill RU-486 is taken off the market. In making this demand, Mr. DeMint is contradicting the position he took in introducing a bill that would suspend RU-486 from the market until the Government Accountability Office reviewed the FDA’s approval of the drug.All of this leads us back to our earlier plea: If leaders in the Senate cannot control their own people in support of public health and the FDA’s stability, then President Bush should take action through a recess appointment.



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