FDA head chosen for Medicare post

Sunday, February 22, 2004

February 23, 2004

WASHINGTON - President Bush announced Friday that he will nominate Dr. Mark McClellan, the food and drug commissioner, to run CMS.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mark McClellan faces a huge logistical and political challenge: to provide prescription drug coverage to the elderly while fending off Democratic attacks on the new Medicare law.

While firmly committed to the president's free-market policies, McClellan has shown a knack for working well with members of both parties.

A physician and economist, McClellan has received rave reviews from drug companies for his work as chief of the Food and Drug Administration, a post he assumed in November 2002.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said McClellan is "a superb choice," The New York Times reported.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, said: "McClellan was an expert resource throughout last year's Medicare prescription drug negotiations. I found him to be a straight shooter who doesn't allow politics to get in the way of good policy."

If McClellan is confirmed, his deputy, Dr. Lester Crawford, will become acting FDA commissioner. McLellan will replace Dennis Smith, who has served as acting CMS administrator since Tom Scully resigned in December. Scully now works for the Atlanta-based law firm Alston & Bird.

McClellan is the son of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and the brother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan.