In a repeat of last spring’s battle over the confirmation of the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) have announced that they will block the confirmation of Andrew von Eschenbach until the FDA rules on making the emergency contraceptive Plan B available over-the-counter. Last spring, they announced a similar hold on the nomination of Lester Crawford, which they lifted when the Secretary of Health and Human Services promised a decision by September 1, 2005. In a shocking turnaround, the FDA announced another delay on Plan B following Crawford’s confirmation. Soon afterwards, Crawford resigned, and von Eschenbach has been acting as interim commissioner.
Now, von Eschenbach faces a confirmation battle of his own, as Clinton and Murray have restated their demands, and seem to be taking a harder line. On National Public Radio, Murray said, “This time around, we are being very firm. The FDA needs to follow its own rules and make a decision, yes or no, on Plan B. And their credibility is at stake. We will hold up this nomination until that decision is made.” Testifying before Congress a month ago, von Eschenbach stated that science, not politics, would be the deciding factor in approving nonprescription sales of Plan B, but did not provide a timetable for an FDA decision.