The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of Eric Lander, PhD, to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) by voice vote on May 20, with five Republicans recording their opposition to the confirmation. The vote followed the committee’s nomination hearing with Lander on April 29 [refer to Washington Highlights, April 30].
Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) opened the business meeting by noting the importance of the OSTP director’s role in informing national policy. “We are at a critical moment when science and innovation has never been more important to our health, to our economy, to our well-being, to our planet, and to our way of life. For the first time in our country's history, President Biden has elevated this position to a Cabinet-level post, underscoring its significance and importance of the role that science will play in decision-making,” she stated.
Cantwell added her support for Lander’s nomination but noted, “I would have loved to see a woman here in this position. ... But most importantly, Dr. Lander and I have come to a focus and understanding that the very first task that you should focus on is helping all of us add diversity of women and minorities in the science field.”
Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) thanked Lander for his thorough responses to the committee’s questions and noted his own careful review of the nomination in coming to his decision to support Lander.
“I am grateful that he [Lander] appreciates the need for equitable funding and research opportunities for all Americans regardless of what state or region they live in. I trust that, once he is confirmed, he will work with me in a collaborative manner to improve the fair distribution of research dollars as he leads U.S. efforts to make advances in science and technology,” Wicker concluded, while noting the Senate’s ongoing work to consider the Endless Frontier Act on the Senate floor [refer to related story].
Lander’s nomination will now move to the Senate floor for a final vote. If confirmed, he would be the first life scientist to serve as OSTP director and the first OSTP director to serve in a Cabinet-level position.