The Senate Commerce Committee approved Biden Cabinet nominee Eric Lander to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy on Thursday in a bipartisan voice vote.
Lander, a top geneticist and director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is the last of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees awaiting confirmation.
Triumphing over lawmakers doubts: While nearly all of Biden’s nominees have been approved, Lander’s nomination had not been assured. He had drawn criticism from some lawmakers over two meetings he had with late financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in the spring of 2012. He also drew fire for allegations of downplaying the contributions of two female scientists in favor of those he worked with, as well as toasting a notable geneticist accused of espousing racist and sexist views.
Notable votes against: Six Republican senators on the committee voted against Lander, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — who had said Lander’s connection to Epstein was “of tremendous concern” at his hearing late last month. Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming also voted against Lander.
A high-profile role: Biden has elevated the top OSTP post to a Cabinet-level position for the first time in history, in a bid that demonstrates his mantra of “science is back.” The president tapped Lander to lead the office in early January, following his stint as co-chair of the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama administration — where he briefed both then-Vice President Biden and President Barack Obama on science-related issues.
What’s next: Lander’s nomination will now head to the Senate floor, where it will need 51 votes to pass. The bipartisan nod from the Senate Commerce Committee suggests that Lander will likely be confirmed without much difficulty.