House Energy and Commerce Committee top Democrat Henry Waxman narrowly edged out his opponent in an election that will see big changeovers for the committee, especially with the potential departure of several members from both sides of the aisle. Reps Bono-Mack, Bilbray, Stearns, and Bass all lost close races and represent notable departures from the committee on the Majority side.
Bono-Mack, chair of the committee's commerce, manufacturing and trade panel, has been pushing policies to curb drug abuse, such as bills mandating tamper-resistant formulations of painkillers, and requiring mandatory prescriber training to dispense certain painkillers. This is an issue that has also been the focus of Sen. Feinstein on the Senate side, but is now without a sponsor in the House.
Bilbray, a champion of biomedical research, is also a key player in the drug and device policy arena. He has championed a federal drug track and trace system, although the topic has attracted broader bipartisan attention. Bilbray has pushed a slew of drug and device policies encouraging research and development in regenerative medicine, streamlining de novo device reviews and a recent proposal to grant marketing exclusivity for combination therapies.
Many were expecting noticeable turnover in the committee and there has also been talk of making the committee smaller overall. The Democrats leaving the committee are: Ed Towns (NY), Mike Ross (AR) and Charles Gonzalez (TX) who will all retire, and Tammy Baldwin (WI), who was elected to the Senate. Aside from Bass, Stearns, Bilbray, and Bono-Mack, Republicans leaving the committee are: Sue Myrick (NC) and John Sullivan (OK), who are also retiring. Gonzalez, Towns, Ross and Myrick were members of the committee's health panel.