The Food & Drug Administration and the life sciences industry don’t always see eye to eye, but both are reportedly elated at the prospect of GOP Sen. Charles Grassley swapping his seat on the Senate Finance Committee for onetime GOP stalwart (now Democrat turncoat, if you wear elephant cufflinks) Arlen Specter’s chair at the Judicial panel.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Beltway is abuzz with talk of the possibility, as the dust settles over Specter’s move across the aisle.
A drug industry lobbyist, a rep for a frequent Grassley target, told the journal his client called at 6 a.m. asking about “the good news.”
And in the inner sanctum of the FDA’s White Oak, Md., headquarters, where Grassley has been a particularly avid scourge, frequent victims of his tongue lashings were literally exchanging high fives, according to the venerable business rag.
The Republican party apparently hankers for Grassley, the senior senator from Iowa, to take the seat vacated by Specter after his switch to the Democratic party earlier this week. As the top Republican on the influential committee, Grassley would carry a pretty big stick, and he’s not known for speaking softly.
Not that Grassley doesn’t want the seat himself — just not right now. He’s hoping to stay on the Finance Committee until the term ends in 18 months, so he can continue to play a key role in the healthcare overhaul, according to the Journal.
Though he’s already got a seat at the Judiciary committee table, Grassley would like to move up the food chain. But his brief with Finance includes oversight of Medicare and Medicaid and tax issues affecting the medical-industrial complex.
That means he can ride herd on the federal watchdog agency and the life sciences industry — and he has. The Journal‘s Alicia Mundy writes that Grassley “almost single-handedly changed the relationship” between the medical device, pharma and biotech industries and university researchers and their institutions.
“Universities dread getting calls from Grassley’s staff about money trails involving researchers,” a medical expert at one very large southern university told Mundy.
And a drug lobbyist who called Mundy to ask about Grassley leaving Finance whispered “Is it TRUE?”
Maybe. But even if the Republican firebrand hitches his horse to the Judiciary Committee’s post, what makes anyone think the burrs under his saddle won’t come along too? The top GOP spot at Judiciary strikes me as a pretty good bully pulpit.