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COM. KESSLER, NIH DIRECTOR HEALY RESIGNATIONS EFFECTIVE JAN. 20: WHITHER FDA?

This article was originally published in The Gray Sheet

Executive Summary

President Bush's acceptance of the resignations of FDA Commissioner David Kessler and National Institutes of Health Director Bernadine Healy is providing more grist for the Washington rumor mill as the federal government prepares for the transition to power of the Clinton Administration. The not unexpected resignations of Kessler and Healy become effective at noon on Jan. 20, the White House said Jan. 15. Who will fill their respective slots, either on an acting or permanent basis, remains clouded in the crystal ball. Both Kessler and Healy joined the Bush Administration in 1991. Several hundred political appointees subject to Senate confirmation received letters from President Bush on Jan. 14 thanking them for their public service and informing them that their government duties would officially end on Inauguration Day. The notices were sent at the request of Clinton transition officials. Resignation of political appointees is a standard procedure during an administration transition and most appointees can be trusted to send in their resignations voluntarily. The Jan. 14 notification effectively terminates speculation that Kessler or Healy would remain in their current positions in the Clinton Administration. Should President-elect Clinton choose to retain Kessler or Healy, they would have to be reappointed and undergo another Senate confirmation process. In that case, HHS Secretary-designate Donna Shalala could recommend that Kessler and Healy stay on in a temporary capacity as special assistants to the department. However, this scenario is unlikely despite pressure to retain Kessler from organizations such as Public Citizen's Health Research Group and AIDS advocacy groups. More likely, Shalala will quickly name acting heads of both FDA and NIH (for coverage of Shalala's confirmation hearings, see p. 6). Political appointees at FDA who do not require Senate confirmation, such as Deputy Commissioner for Policy Michael Taylor and Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs Carol Scheman, also were notified on Jan. 14 that they must submit pro forma letters of resignation by Jan. 20. Four of the five deputy commissioners at FDA are political appointees. Only Deputy Commissioner for Operations Jane Henney is a career FDAer and Mary Jo Veverka, the special advisor for management and systems, is a term employee. NIH's only "second- tier" political appointee, National Cancer Institute Director Samuel Broder, received no such notification from the administration. The fate of one Bush Administration official is certain. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health James Mason will accept an appointment as VP for policy development at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense medical school in Bethesda. He will assume his new duties following the inauguration, the Public Health Service said Jan. 15. Clinton transition team Director for Personnel Richard Riley held a meeting Jan. 15 to discuss possible appointees for the assistant secretary for health position. New York City Health Department Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is said to be on the "short list" for the post.
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