Thursday, November 20, 2008

HHS Secretary and the FDA Commissioner

Everybody's talking about the selection of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as the next HHS Secretary. To read our take, check out The Pink Sheet DAILY. Now that the Daschle pick has been made, everyone's attention is turning to FDA Commissioner. We've given you our list of initial possibilities here and here and here.

But we wanted to use this space to make a nuanced, but important, point about what say the HHS Secretary may have on the commissioner pick. It could be very little.

In addition to Senate HELP Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy, and a few other prominent Senate leaders, the pick may come from just a few internal White House advisers. One former senior White House adviser told us this not too long ago:

"Whenever the HHS Secretary made it clear they didn't want to get locked out of the FDA commissioner process, we made sure to lock them out." White House advisers, this person said, would even literally lock their notes inside a safe when they were done for the night to ensure there were no leaks.

In the Bush White House, Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel Clay Johnson was critical in the commissioner choice, conducting the interview process. Johnson is now OMB Deputy Director for management.

Daschle may have tremendous influence on who the next commissioner is, or even make the choice himself. The point, though, is he also may not have any say at all, or only a marginal one.

We just want to urge caution in assuming Daschle will make the pick.

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