TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Early Retirement Announcement Shows How Much He Likes to Plan Ahead

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

The Senate minority leader will not seek reelection in 2016

By announcing early that he will not run for reelection next fall, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has freed up party resources that might have been spent on what would have been a tough race for other elections — a major reason behind his early decision, as he told the New York Times. That kind of planning ahead is not unusual for the minority leader.

Reid’s personal background might not peg him as a super planner: as TIME explained in a 2004 profile, he was once an amateur boxer, the son of “a hard-drinking gold miner.” (His mother’s pay came from taking in laundry from brothels.) But he devoted himself to finding stability, including through a conversion to Mormonism, and ended up the kind of person who famously carries around notecards on which to record every promise he makes, with the idea that he’ll later be able to record when he fulfills them.

One of the best illustrations of that forward-looking nature was explained in that same 2004 article, in which TIME’s Douglas Waller laid out how the Senator prepared for a filibuster:

Harry Reid is the kind of adversary who might just wear you down. Last year, for example, the Nevada Senator staged a one-day filibuster, standing on the Senate floor and talking for eight hours and 35 minutes straight to put majority leader Bill Frist hopelessly behind schedule on other bills that he wanted to rush through before the Thanksgiving recess. Reid planned everything carefully, down to his diet. So he wouldn’t be forced to go to the bathroom and lose his right to the floor, he ate only a slice of wheat bread and a handful of unsalted peanuts for breakfast, kept Senate pages from refilling the water glass at his desk and made sure he sipped only half of it during the day.

One thing he can’t plan, of course, is the one thing that many Washington-watchers will wonder most: who will take his place as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Read the full 2004 story, here in the TIME archives: Herding the Democrats

TIME 2016 elections

Harry Reid Says He Will Retire at the End of 2016

Harry Reid
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. adjusts his glasses as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 24, 2015.

The senator said he didn't want to use Democratic resources that could be put to better use in other elections

Sen. Harry Reid says he will not seek reelection in 2016, bringing an end to his decades-long career in Congress as one of the longest serving Democratic leaders ever.

The former majority leader says becoming minority leader after Democrats lost control of the Senate in November had nothing to do with his decision, nor did his rib-breaking exercise accident in January. Reid, 75, said that he did not want to make use of Democratic funding to be reelected when that money could be better used in other races, citing tough battles in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In a statement, Reid also said his accident, which broke bones in his face, had given him and his wife “time to ponder and to think,” leading him to the conclusion that it would be best to hand over the reins.

Reid has already endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as his replacement over other potential successors like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. In an interview on a Nevada public radio station Friday, Reid cited Schumer’s work helping Democrats take control of 2006.

“I’ve never been a shrinking violet,” said Reid of his decision to name Schumer so early. “I think it’s very important that we have continuity in our leadership and I’ve done everything that I could to avoid a fight for leadership during all the time I’ve been in the Senate…He will be elected to replace me in 22 months. I think one reason that will happen is because I want him to be my replacement.”

“Schumer is a brilliant man from New York and he’s been a tremendous asset to me,” he added.

Reid was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, and then to the Senate in 1986. He wrote in his statement that as a boy, he’d dreamed of playing professional baseball. “But the joy I’ve gotten with the work that I’ve done for the people of the state of Nevada,” he wrote, “has been just as fulfilling as if I had played center field at Yankee Stadium.”

Barack Obama joined Reid on the radio show Friday as a surprise caller and called Reid one of his “best partners and best friends.”

“Harry’s going to be doing a lot of work over the next 20-something months but I think that when the story is written and all is told, you’re going to have somebody who has done more for Nevada and for this country as anybody who has ever been in the Senate,” said Obama. “And I could not be prouder of him. He did an unbelievable job on a whole bunch of really tough issues, saving this country from a depression, making sure millions of people had health care, making sure that young people are able to go to college. And he’s been one of my partners, best friends and I’m really honored to have served with him.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” responded Reid when Obama took the line. “What a guy.”

Read next: Congress to Solve Problem It Created 18 Years Ago

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Senate

McConnell Says Attorney General Confirmation Vote May Be Delayed

Prompting quick protests from Democratic lawmakers who view her confirmation as a top priority

(WASHINGTON) — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Sunday that he won’t hold a confirmation vote for Loretta Lynch as attorney general before the Senate completes work on a bill designed to curb human trafficking.

The Kentucky Republican’s comments prompted immediate protests from Democratic lawmakers who view her confirmation as a top priority.

McConnell had said he would be moving to the Lynch nomination this coming week. But then last week’s debate on a human trafficking bill broke down over a dispute about a provision regarding funding for abortions. Democrats made a late objection to a provision that prohibits money dedicated to a fund for victims from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the woman were in jeopardy.

Similar restrictions on the use of federal funds have been in place for three decades. But abortion-rights supporters said the legislation takes the restrictions a step further by applying them to the personal money convicted sex traffickers pay into a government fund.

McConnell said Sunday during an interview on CNN that Democrats had voted for the very same language three months ago. He said the Senate is soon scheduled to turn to the budget and then to be on recess for two weeks, so there is only a limited window of time for the Lynch vote.

“If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general bill next week, we need to finish up this human trafficking bill,” McConnell said.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said Republicans are using any excuse they can to stall the nomination. At a time when terrorist groups are threatening the U.S., the nominee deserves a vote, he said.

“It’s time for Republicans to stop dragging their feet on Loretta Lynch,” Schumer said.

Lynch would be the first black woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. She would succeed Eric Holder, who is staying on until a replacement is confirmed.

TIME Foreign Policy

Why Republicans Wrote to the Ayatollahs

Senator Tom Cotton speaks during a news conference with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about arming Ukraine in the fight against Russia in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5, 2015.
Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Senator Tom Cotton speaks during a news conference with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about arming Ukraine in the fight against Russia in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5, 2015.

Two words: Regime change

The 47 Republican Senators who wrote to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran yesterday did so, they said, “to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution” which the Senators said limit how much President Obama can commit to in nuclear negotiations between Tehran, the U.S. and its five allies.

But to judge by his past statements about those negotiations, the letter’s primary author intended it not so much to edify the Iranians about the American system of government as to completely undermine the talks themselves.

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas strongly opposes the nuclear talks and believes they should stop immediately. In January, he told the Heritage Foundation “the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran … started out as an unwise policy [and have] now descended into a dangerous farce.”

In his Heritage speech, Cotton suggested that Obama might have cut a quiet deal to push off Iranian nuclear weapons capability until after the end of his second term. Cotton said that the President, in writing to Iran’s supreme leader over the last several years in pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the nuclear impasse, had behaved “like a love-struck teenager.”

By contrast, Cotton informed the Iranian leaders in his letter Monday that any deal Obama cut with them might not last. “We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement,” Cotton and his fellow Senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time,” the Republican Senators added.

Cotton has thoughts on what an alternative policy should be. In his Heritage speech, he said the U.S. should focus first and foremost on bringing down the regime in Tehran. “The goal of our policy must be clear: regime change in Iran,” Cotton said. To that end, Cotton said, the U.S. Congress should offer to transfer bombers and 30,000 pound bunker busting bombs to Israel for use should Israel decide to attack Iranian nuclear sites.

Not all the Republicans agree with that policy. Seven Republican Senators did not sign the letter, although they have not all stated their reasons. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has previously argued that Israeli military strikes against Iran could draw the U.S. unprepared into war. Cotton served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but after two long and costly wars few politicians are willing publicly to embrace policies that could drag the U.S. into another Middle East conflict.

Which may explain why Cotton and his fellow signatories ended their letter to the Iranians by saying only that, “We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.”

TIME Senate

Mikulski Will ‘Give It All I’ve Got’ to Elect More Women to the Senate

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, speaks during a news conference announcing her retirement after her current term, in the Fells Point section of Baltimore on March 2, 2015.
Steve Ruark—AP Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, speaks during a news conference announcing her retirement after her current term, in the Fells Point section of Baltimore on March 2, 2015.

“I’m not ready to write my last chapter"

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski took the stage at the EMILY’s List 30th anniversary gala to a raucous applause on Tuesday, one day after announcing she would not seek re-election after her current term ends in two years.

The firebrand Democrat, the longest-serving woman in Senate history, said while she’s ready to “turn the page,” she’s not quite throwing in the towel: “I’m not ready to write my last chapter.”

“I want to give it all I’ve got to elect more women to the United States Senate… and a woman to the White House,” she said, before a not-so-veiled nod to presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “In 2016, we will elect that Democratic woman president and you know who I’m talking about.”

Mikulski was the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in 1986, after about a decade in the House, with the support of EMILY’s List. The organization, which was in its early stages at the time, has helped elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office. Calls for paycheck fairness, raising the minimum wage and tax breaks for the middle class were intertwined with others for electing and supporting women in politics.

When they say, “she doesn’t look the part,” Mikulski said, “Tell them, this is what the part looks like.”

TIME 2016 Election

Barbara Mikulski, Longest-Serving Woman in Congress, to Retire

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Bill Clark—AP Senator Barbara Mikulsk (D., Md.) speaks with reporters as she arrives for the Senate Democrats' policy lunch on Dec. 9, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

The Maryland Senator's retirement in 2016 leaves a gaping hole in the state's Democratic power structure

Barbara Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat who has served in Congress for nearly 40 years, will retire from her current position as U.S. Senator at the end of her term in 2016.

“I had to decide whether to spend my time fighting to keep my job or fighting for your job. Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell to meet your day-to-day needs?” she said at a Monday press conference announcing her decision. She vowed to continue to work to pass legislation in the Senate for the remainder of her term.

Mikulski, 78, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1977 before moving to the Senate in 1987. She was the first woman to chair the influential Appropriations Committee, a coveted position given the committee’s oversight over hundreds of billions of dollars of discretionary spending.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid, who entered the Senate the same year as Mikulski, praised his Maryland counterpart as a “trailblazer”:

“Senator Barbara Mikulski’s career has been devoted to serving others,” he said in a statement. “As Dean of the women of the Senate, Barbara has been a mentor and friend to Senators on both sides of the aisle. Through her work, she has helped a generation of women leaders rise in the Senate.”

The departure of one of the most revered figures in Maryland politics leaves a gaping hole in the state’s Democratic power structure. A slew of members of the House may vie for her seat. It also may have implications for the 2016 presidential race if Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, opts to run for the Senate seat instead of challenging Hillary Clinton.

TIME climate

Senator Throws Snowball! Climate Change Disproven!

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Is Sen. James Inhofe really the person we want chairing the Senate's environment committee?

What’s all this talk about global hunger? I don’t know about you, but I just tucked into a burrito and there are plenty more where that one came from. But that doesn’t mean the nation’s soaring obesity rates are anything more than a rumor. Most of the people I work with look pretty darn good, so QED right?

Something similar is true of climate change—at least if you’re Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and a man tasked with knowing a thing or two about, um, the environment and public works. The Senator, who has made something of a cottage industry out of arguing that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” at last has drop-dead, case-closed proof that he’s been right all along. The evidence: a snowball. And not just any snowball, one right there in Washington, DC!

Inhofe brought his snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday and declared that “we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record.” Yet in a plastic bag, right on his desk, he had the evidence to demolish that claim. “I ask the chair, you know what this is?” he said. “It’s a snowball, and that’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out, very unseasonable.” Then he tossed the unexpected snowball to the unsuspecting chair and returned to his prepared text with self-satisfied, “Mm-hmm.”

Inhofe is completely correct, of course: It was very, very cold on Thursday—unseasonably so. And it was also very, very hot in Opa Loca Florida, where the temperature was 87º F (30º C)—awfully sweltering even for that part of the country, at least at this time of year. Presumably, Opa Loca’s unseasonable steam bath is equally compelling proof that climate change is real.

Look, it’s easy to take shots at Inhofe, which is why everyone is doing it today—here and here and here and here just for starters. But the implications are real. Either he really doesn’t understand that weather isn’t climate, that long-term trends are different from short-term bumps, that what happens at your house or in your town really, truly isn’t what’s happening everywhere else on the planet, or he does know and he’s pretending he doesn’t. Either way, it’s hard to argue that he’s the man you’d want as the Senate’s leading voice on climate policy.

Here’s hoping, if nothing else, that Inhofe has an easy commute home tonight. It’ll be long-awaited proof that the U.S. highway system has at last solved the problem of traffic.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Food and Drug Administration

Candidate to Lead FDA Has Close Ties to Big Pharma

Dr. Robert Califf
Jared Lazarus—Duke Photography Dr. Robert Califf

Duke's Dr. Robert Califf sees closer collaboration between government and industry

Last May, Duke University’s Vice Chancellor for clinical research, Dr. Robert Califf, told an audience of executives that the American system for developing drugs and medical devices was in crisis. Using slides [pdf] developed by Duke’s business school, he said the system was too slow and too expensive, and required disruption and transformation. Towards the end of his talk, he put up a slide that identified a key barrier to change: regulation.

Such views are not uncommon in industry, academic research and on Capitol Hill, but they are noteworthy coming from Califf because he could soon be America’s top regulator overseeing the safety and efficacy of the country’s drugs and medical devices. Califf is already set to become deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) next month. Now sources familiar with the process tell TIME he is on President Barack Obama’s short list to run the agency following this month’s announcement that its long-serving commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, will step down in March.

The White House declined to comment on pending personnel decisions, but word that Califf is in contention for the top spot at the FDA comes at a key moment. The agency faces potentially dramatic changes this year as Congress prepares to rewrite many of the rules for how drugs and medical devices are reviewed and tested for safety and efficacy. Califf is widely respected in the public and private sectors, but his candidacy is seen by some as a threat to the independence and authority of the FDA, thanks to his views on the need to accelerate change and his deep financial and intellectual ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Califf says his salary is contractually underwritten in part by several large pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Novartis. He also receives as much as $100,000 a year in consulting fees from some of those companies, and from others, according to his 2014 conflict of interest disclosure [pdf]. In an interview with TIME, Califf estimates that less than half of his annual income comes from research money provided by the pharmaceutical industry, though he says he is not certain because he doesn’t tend to distinguish between industry and government research funding. He says he is divesting his holdings in two privately-held pharmaceutical companies he helped get off the ground.

Califf says such collaboration, not just between industry and academia, but with government, too, is the way of the future. “The greatest progress almost certainly will be made by breaking out of insular knowledge bases and collaborating across the different sectors,” Califf says. He says there is “a tension which cannot be avoided between regulating an industry and creating the conditions where the industry can thrive, and the FDA’s got to do both.” He says it would be “useful to have someone [leading the FDA] who understands how companies operate because you’re interacting with them all the time.”

Diana Zuckerman, President of the National Center for Health Research, which advocates for FDA regulatory authority, says such ties “should be of great concern.” Dr. Califf is “a very accomplished, smart physician who’s been an important name in the field,” Zuckerman says, but his “interdependent relationships” raise questions about his “objectivity and distance.” She cites several studies suggesting the medical products industry uses such ties to influence the behavior and decision making of doctors and researchers, even when the scientists don’t realize it.

The tension over Califf’s collaboration with industry gets to the heart of the future of the FDA at a pivotal moment. While FDA defenders see the collaboration as a threat to its independence, others see close relationships between government, industry and academia as the model for the future. Califf heads a successful and powerful clinical research program, the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, which brings together industry drug researchers, academic scientists and federal regulators to speed drug development and approval. Califf estimates 50-60% of its $320 million in annual research funding comes from industry.

Capitol Hill is considering codifying parts of that collaborative model for the FDA. The powerful Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a draft bill called 21st Century Cures, which would loosen the drug approval and post-market oversight process. Califf says because the bill is still in draft it is too early to pass an overall judgment on it but he says, “I support a lot of the concepts in the bill.”

In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee has begun work on its own bill, with committee chairman Lamar Alexander declaring, “It takes too long and costs too much to develop medical products.” In a report paving the way for his legislation, Alexander concluded the FDA has grown too large, has fallen behind scientific innovation and threatens American leadership in biomedical innovation. Reform efforts in the Senate may be aided by the support of liberals like Elizabeth Warren who back looser regulations on the medical device industry.

The FDA uses a model for drug testing and oversight largely developed in the early 1960s, with phased trials before drugs and devices are approved for sale to ensure they are safe and effective, and “post-market” studies afterwards to monitor them. Over time, the agency has come to rely on the medical product industry for more than 60% of its budget for post-market monitoring. Accused of regulatory capture by those who see undue industry influence, the FDA has faced attacks from both sides.

That means the FDA has few defenders and will rely heavily on its next commissioner to stand up for it in public and on Capitol Hill. “This is a very dangerous time for the agency,” says Zuckerman of the National Center for Health Research, “It’s under fire in a way that is unprecedented in the last 20 years.”

Califf’s supporters point out that he is among the ten most cited medical authors in America, and that he has spent his career as a clinician helping patients. Regarding the danger of regulators being “captured” by their interactions with industry, Califf says, “The difference between capture and collaboration towards improving human health is a pretty big difference.”

The White House has set no time frame for its decision on Hamburg’s replacement. It has announced the acting commissioner will be Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a scientist and long-time official at the Health and Human Services department, when she steps down in March.

TIME FDA

The Head of the FDA is Leaving. Here’s Why That’s a Big Deal.

Interview With FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), listens to a question during an interview in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 2014.

More changes at the powerful agency may be in the works

There are a lot of high-level positions in the federal government that can be filled with any warm body, and many often are. But every now and then a job opens up at a time when the person who fills it makes a big difference, not just in the headlines but in the lives of everyday Americans for years to come.

On Thursday, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, announced her intention to step down in March after six years in one of the toughest jobs in government. Inheriting the FDA at a moment of crisis, she endured a few scandals of her own while stabilizing the agency, so her departure after such a long and challenging tenure is not necessarily a surprise.

But the timing is significant, because it comes at what one close FDA observer, Professor Daniel Carpenter of Harvard, calls “a deregulatory moment” at the FDA. The agency faces a bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to reform key elements of its authority, including how it approves drugs and medical devices, the reach of its oversight authority and possibly the methods by which it is funded.

The effects of those changes could be anything but bureaucratic. The FDA is arguably the most powerful regulatory agency in the world, making and enforcing the rules for as much as one quarter of the consumer goods economy in America—and therefore, by extension, the rest of the world. Through its decisions about everything from food labeling to drug testing, it affects the health, safety and wealth of billions of people around the globe.

Hamburg took over the FDA in 2009 after multiple scandals over political influence and drug safety, including the approval and oversight of dangerous anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories and painkillers. Once on the job, she faced criticism for deaths caused by tainted steroids known as compounded drugs and for her handling of a plan to expand availability of the Plan B morning after pill to teenagers.

However both sides of the aisle praise her for stabilizing the agency. On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the head of the Senate’s FDA-controlling Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), said he was “grateful to Dr. Hamburg for her leadership.” His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington praised Hamburg’s “dedication to protecting public health … and strengthening patient and consumer safety.”

The HELP committee announced this week that it would begin work on legislation controlling the FDA. Even before he took over the committee this year, Alexander commissioned a report on the medical review and approval process so that he could hit the ground running with hearings and an effort to move legislation. Much of his focus has been on getting drugs and medical devices to market faster. Alexander said the goal is “to modernize the way drugs and medical devices are discovered, developed and approved.”

The role of the FDA Commissioner will be central in deciding when and whether to defend the agency’s powers in the face of deregulatory reforms, not least because both parties and the White House support varying degrees of change. “The administration is very engaged,” in the changes afoot on Capitol Hill, says one Democratic Senate aide, and “Any incoming FDA commissioner is going to play a big role in the process.”

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a long-time employee of the Health and Human services department and currently the chief scientist at FDA, will become Acting Commissioner when Hamburg steps down in March. Hamburg recently appointed Robert Califf of Duke University to be Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco. He is due to start that job in late February, and is considered a leading contender to succeed Hamburg—the Wall Street Journal notes that he was interviewed twice for the job under the Bush administration.

The FDA Commissioner in nominated by the President and requires Congressional approval.

TIME elizabeth warren

Elizabeth Warren Goes to Bat for Medical Device Industry

Elizabeth Warren
J. Scott Applewhite—AP Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 8, 2015.

The populist Senator backs regulatory changes, tax credits and more government funding for home state heavyweights.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic star who just last week unveiled a bill targeting the profits of large drug makers, doesn’t sound like much of a populist when it comes to another group of big health care corporations, the medical device manufacturers, many of which happen to be headquartered in the Senator’s home state of Massachusetts. Warren’s coziness with those companies is now earning her criticism within her party, with one former Democratic Senate staffer describing some of her positions as “repulsive.”

Warren took to the floor of the Senate on Jan. 29 to unveil a bill she said would act as a kind of multi-million dollar “swear jar” for pharmaceutical companies that break the law, penalizing them when they get caught and using the funds to supplement scientific research. With the folksy delivery that has made her a favorite of progressives across the country, she said that powerful, moneyed lobbyists had opposed the bill, but that her message to them and their big business bosses was, “If they don’t want to put a dollar in the swear jar, then stop swearing.”

What Warren didn’t say was that her bill has a loophole in it for medical device manufacturers. Those companies, which make everything from latex gloves to Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines, would be exempt from her proposed penalties unless they also make drugs. At the same time, her bill explicitly ensures that the so-called “medtech” companies would benefit from the research dollars that her “swear jar” would generate.

Warren is widely seen as the defender of everyday Americans against the scourge of business interests that she says manipulate Washington, rig regulation and fuel corporate welfare. But when it comes to the medical device industry, she sings a different tune, albeit quietly. Since she launched her campaign for the Senate in 2011, Warren has come out in favor several medical device industry priorities, including rewriting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, bolstering federal research funding and making permanent certain temporary tax credits for research and development.

Most visibly, she wants to repeal the medical device taxes that help fund President Barack Obama’s signature health reform, the Affordable Care Act. That position has brought her into a surprising, if temporary, alliance on the issue with the new Republican leaders of Congress, who see repeal of the medical device tax as their most likely legislative vehicle to chip away at Obamacare.

All these pro-business positions have not gone unnoticed. “We’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with Sen. Warren during her tenure in Congress,” says JC Scott, the head of government affairs for the medical device industry’s top lobbyist, AdvaMed. Scott says Warren “certainly has been engaged with a focus on improving the regulatory efficiency” at the Food and Drug Administration, which approves and regulates medical devices, thanks to her position on the agency’s Congressional oversight authority, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee.

In many ways there is nothing extraordinary in Warren’s positions: they are the work of an elected representative ensuring the interests of her constituents. Medical devices are big business in Massachusetts. In 2010, the latest date for which numbers are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical device companies claimed responsibility for more than 23,000 jobs in Massachusetts, 13% of its export economy and $17.6 billion worth of the state’s economy. Warren also represents major academic research institutions that are primary beneficiaries of programs that also benefit the medical device industry. “This is a very powerful industry,” says Paul Thacker, a former medical device and pharmaceutical investigator for the Republican staff of the Senate Finance committee, “And she’s looking out for jobs in her home state.”

Warren first enunciated her medtech positions during her close race against then-incumbent Senator Scott Brown in 2012. For the campaign, Brown received $170,650 from the medical device industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while Warren didn’t break the top 20 recipients for industry campaign contributions, receiving only $16,550. In late March 2012, Brown attacked Warren for her support of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, saying it would hurt the medtech industry in Massachusetts.

Two weeks later, Warren published an editorial in an industry newsletter broadly supporting medtech’s policy agenda. Among the positions she espoused were changing FDA regulations to speed approval of medical devices, advancing Congressional research funding for medical devices, making permanent federal tax credits for research and development, and repealing the medical device tax in Obamacare. Warren ended up winning by 8 percentage points, or more than 200,000 votes, in a race that cost both sides more than $77 million.

Warren’s record supporting the medical device industry, which had $336 billion in domestic revenues in 2013, contrasts with her criticism of other industries. On a section of her website devoted to “leveling the playing field” she says, “The most profitable corporations should have to pay their fair share.” The Obamacare medical device tax that she wants to repeal will cost the industry $29 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. In a hearing this year on a Republican bill that she said would have lowered the cost of Obamacare on businesses, Warren said, “I’m against adding $53 billion to the deficit so that corporations can push their costs and responsibilities onto the government.”

Warren’s position on the repeal of the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act draws particular ire from those who fought to pass it into law. Unlike the pharmaceutical and hospital industries, the medical device industry refused to negotiate directly with the bill’s authors over how much of the cost of Obamacare the device makers would bear, say Senate aides familiar with the negotiations. The medical device tax that was ultimately included in the 2010 bill was the result of intense negotiations between its authors and Democratic senators supporting the industry. “The idea that Elizabeth Warren thinks that one industry should get a sweetheart deal from paying their fair share for providing healthcare to poor Americans is repulsive,” says one former Democratic Senate staffer involved in the negotiations.

The Medical Innovation Act [pdf] Warren proposed last week is also a study in contrasts. Big pharma companies have repeatedly been subject to legal action by the Justice Department, but so too have some medical device manufacturers. One of the biggest device makers, the Minnesota-based Medtronic, paid $23.5 million in Dec. 2011, and $9.9 million in May 2014 to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act. It was also the subject of a 2012 Senate Finance Committee investigation into alleged manipulation of studies into its products.

Warren and her staffers declined to comment on her bill or her positions on medical device regulation, oversight and funding, but her office confirmed that she still holds the positions she took in the 2012 op-ed. Warren’s defenders say she believes the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act impedes innovation and should be replaced with another source of revenue. They say her positions on the medical device industry are in line with her broader approach to funding research and development and simplifying regulation. They argue that her bill shields small companies, not medical device makers, by targeting only those companies that make blockbuster drugs that received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her defenders also point out that some big drug makers are also medical device makers, and so could be subject to the penalties.

Warren is realistic about the slim chances her Medical Innovation Act has to pass. “I don’t kid myself,” she said as she presented the bill last week, “A handful of actors with money and power like things just the way they are.” Warren will get a chance to help change things starting next week, though, as the GOP-led HELP committee begins rewriting the regulations and funding mechanisms for both the FDA and the NIH. At stake are the rules controlling how closely the FDA oversees the approval of new medical devices and how much funding the industry gets from government. The House is already moving legislation. “We’re really excited in the House and Senate to move forward with legislation to address regulatory challenges,” says AdvaMed’s JC Scott.

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