Senate health committee approves Bertagnolli as director of NIH
Joe Biden's pick for the post next goes to a floor vote, but not before committee Chair Bernie Sanders tried to tie it to reducing the cost of prescription drugs.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to lead the National Institutes of Health.
The vote voted 15-6, with committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voting no, as expected.
Sanders had expressed his concern about Bertagnolli after her noncommittal response to a question about during when she responded noncommittedly to a question on bringing down pharmaceutical costs.
Bertagnolli, a surgical oncologist and the director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, was applauded by much of the medical research community, especially the oncology world.
But after President Joe Biden selected Bertagnolli in May, Sanders delayed her confirmation because of concerns that the administration was not doing enough to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
“I like her, but I think this is a moment where we need leadership with the NIH which is really prepared to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Drug prices are a signature issue for Sanders, who has used his position as health chair to hold hearings with drug companies and pharmaceutical benefit managers, open investigations into the industry and repeatedly pressure the administration.
On Wednesday, Sanders failed to get Democrats to align with his concerns, with all 10 on the panel voting confirm Bertagnolli, along with five Republicans, including ranking member Bill Cassidy, R-La.
The bipartisan support likely means a final confirmation will take place when it is brought up for a floor vote before the entire Senate.
Her confirmation comes as the agency works to regain confidence from Congress after many Republicans accused former director Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the agency’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, of covering up facts related to a Chinese lab’s involvement in triggering the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins retired in 2021 and Fauci retired last year.
Information from KFF Health News was used in this report.