Republican Senators promise to block von Eschenbach nomination

Two Republican senators have vowed to block Andrew von Eschenbach’s nomination to become permanent FDA commissioner. Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana said the Bush administration must legalize imports of some prescription drugs before he would allow the nomination to proceed, The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he would block von Eschenbach's nomination, unless the FDA takes steps to remove the abortion drug RU-486 from the market. The FDA is unlikely to make any substantive moves in the coming weeks to fulfill either senator’s condition, The Times report suggested, ultimately imperiling the nomination of von Eschenbach. A US Senate committee was expected take some action regarding von Eschenbach’s nomination next week. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairman Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, said the panel would take up von Eschenbach’s nomination on Wednesday, along with other business. But after the committee votes, any Senator can issue a “hold” that blocks the Senate from considering a nomination approved by committee. Since so little time is left before Congress adjourns, any holds, even brief ones, could delay von Eschenbach’s nomination until next year. Von Eschenbach was selected by President Bush as acting commissioner of the FDA after the resignation of Commissioner Lester Crawford last September. Both Crawford and von Eschenbach saw their confirmations held up by Democratic protests over the FDA’s delay in a decision on the over-the-counter sale of Barr’s Plan B emergency contraceptive. The agency approved non-prescription sales of Plan B last month to those 18 and older and a hold on a Senate committee vote on von Eschenbach, put in place by Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, was lifted.