WASHINGTON — President Bush has decided to name a senior health advisor, Mark B. McClellan, to head the Food and Drug Administration, a key post that has gone unfilled throughout the Bush presidency, informed sources said Tuesday.
An official announcement is expected soon, a senior administration official confirmed.
McClellan, a physician with a doctorate in medical economics, is expected to easily win Senate confirmation to lead an agency facing such challenges as bolstering the nation's food safety, ensuring a cleaner blood supply and expediting the drug approval process. The FDA oversees a broad array of consumer protection issues from drug advertising to food labeling.
The 39-year-old native of Austin, Texas, has held a variety of academic and governmental posts, including deputy assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy in the Clinton administration.
One reason that the FDA post has remained vacant has been the unyielding opposition of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, to any nominee with ties to industry.
Congressional sources indicated Tuesday that McClellan would have Kennedy's backing.
"Dr. McClellan has impressive credentials both as a physician and as an economist, and I look forward to learning more about his views on issues critical to the FDA," Kennedy said in a statement issued by his office.
In the Bush administration, McClellan has served on the three-member Council of Economic Advisers, a post he assumed after winning Senate confirmation, and worked on the president's Medicare reform efforts and his proposal to provide prescription drug coverage to senior citizens.
McClellan enjoys the reputation of a policy expert with an instinct for finding compromises on nettlesome issues.
Before joining the Bush administration, he taught health care economics and practiced medicine at Stanford University. He also has written widely on cost-effectiveness of medical technologies.
McClellan holds a master's in public health from Harvard, a degree from the Harvard Medical School and his doctorate in economics from MIT.
His pedigree also may have helped with the Bush White House. McClellan's mother is Carole Keeton Rylander, a longtime mayor of Austin who now serves as the Texas comptroller.
A brother, Scott McClellan, Bush's principal deputy press secretary, refused to discuss the nomination, citing long-standing White House policy of never discussing impending personnel matters.
"When the president is ready to make an announcement, he will do so," Scott McClellan said Tuesday.
Mark McClellan is a 1985 graduate of the University of Texas with degrees in English and biology. After earning his advanced degrees, he obtained dual appointments at Stanford, as an associate professor in health-care economics and as a physician and teacher at the school's hospital.
He is married and is the father of 3-year-old twin girls.