Senator Grassley Might Leave Finance Committee: A Break For Pharma?

The Hill , a newspaper covering congressional news, reports:

"Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) is considering leaving his powerful post as senior Republican on the Finance Committee so that he can become the highest-ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel. To avoid a dramatic shake-up, Grassley is hoping to strike a deal with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that would allow him to serve out the next year and a half on Finance before moving to Judiciary. The top GOP spot on the Judiciary Committee, best known for vetting Supreme Court justices, came open when Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) announced this week he would leave the Republican Party to become a Democrat."

Below, The Wall Street Journal Blog reports:

"The Finance Committee oversees Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention tax issues that affect hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies. ecause of that portfolio, Grassley has been able to become the oversight czar on FDA and the drug industry, a job few in Congress had an appetite for except Democratic Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan."

The Hill explains intricate Senate rules which allow dealmaking such as would afford Sen. Grassley time to finish out the next year and a half at the top of Finance: if Republicans let Sen. Orrin Hatch serve out the remainder of this Congress as a caretaker of the top spot on Judiciary. Hatch, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, would then take the top GOP slot on Finance in 2011. Then, if Grassley took the top GOP Judiciary post, Sessions would be in line to be the ranking member on Budget.

“I would hope that Sen. Sessions would, since he and I would be in this very unique position — I get one of them and he gets one of them — that he’d be willing to take Budget. My druthers would wait until January 2011 to head the Republicans on Judiciary, but do I have that option? I don’t know,” ,” said Grassley.See, The HILL

 

The anticipation of Sen. Grassley’s exit from the Finance Committee has those who have had to respond to Sen Grassley’s no-nonsense questions, such as, PhRMA lobbyists, FDA officials, and prominent academic psychiatrists, jubilant expecting to be let off the hook….who knows? maybe their sigh of relief is premature…


THE WALL STREET JOURNAL BLOG
A Break for Pharma? Grassley May Leave Finance Panel

In what may be the biggest break that the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry have gotten in years, GOP Sen. Charles Grassley is apparently on the verge of stepping out of his leading role on the Senate Finance Committee to take the top Republican spot on the Judiciary Committee.

The potential sea change has had industry lobbyists buzzing today. One who represents a big drug company that has been under fire from Grassley said his client had called his home to ask about “the good news” around 6 a.m.

A former FDA official also said that some current FDA leaders who have been dragged before the Senate to explain various crises at the agency in recent years were exchanging high-fives ­ seriously, he said ­ at FDA headquarters in White Oak, Md.

The ranking Republican slot on Judiciary opened up when Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania changed parties this week. Grassley of Iowa already sits on Judiciary and has wanted to move up, but had planned to stay put on the Finance Committee the next 18 months because of the important role the committee will play in overhauling health care. The Finance Committee oversees Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention tax issues that affect hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies.

Because of that portfolio, Grassley has been able to become the oversight czar on FDA and the drug industry, a job few in Congress had an appetite for except Democratic Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan. Since early 2004, Grassley has kicked the FDA hard on its handling of safety issues on everything from SSRI antidepressants to the painkiller Vioxx to medical devices to blockbuster drugs made by Glaxo, the antidepressant Paxil and the diabetes medicine Avandia.

Most importantly, Grassley has almost single-handedly changed the relationship between the drug industry and university researchers and their institutions. In less than two years, his committee’s push to reveal industry ties with medical stars ­ Joseph Biederman of Harvard <http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/03/20/court-papers-biederman-told-jj-study-results-would-be-positive/>  and Charles Nemeroff of Emory <http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/02/26/what-did-emory-tell-nih-about-nemeroffs-pharma-pay/>  are prime examples ­ has provoked major upheavals in university policies limiting the amount of outside money their researchers can take directly from drug makers, and restricting roles with company speakers bureaus and as consultants. Universities dread getting calls from Grassley’s staff about money trails involving researchers, a medical expert at one very large southern university said.

Grassley would like to be able to hold off <http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/grassley-eyes-top-republican-post-on-judiciary-committee-2009-04-29.html>  the Judiciary change, according to The Hill newspaper, but his fate is in the hands of other Republicans, who might make him choose now.

One drug lobbyist who called to ask about Grassley leaving Finance, whispered, “Is it TRUE?”

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