FDA nominee moves closer to confirmation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate committee approved President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sending Dr. Margaret Hamburg’s nomination one step closer to final approval.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved Hamburg in a voice vote, said Melissa Wagoner, spokeswoman for panel chairman Senator Edward Kennedy.

The full Senate must still vote on Hamburg, a Harvard-trained doctor and former New York City health commissioner known for her work in bioterrorism preparations and other public health issues.

A Senate leadership aide said it was not clear when the floor vote would happen, although the staffer ruled out any further action on Wednesday.

The FDA is grappling with issues ranging from food contamination and drug safety concerns to the recent H1N1 swine flu outbreak.

Senator Mike Enzi, the committee’s top Republican, urged party colleagues to support Hamburg, saying “she will face unprecedented challenges to public health, from medical product development and biopreparedness to import safety.”

Additional reporting by Rick Cowan; Editing by Tim Dobbyn