Jane Henney: New Trials At The Fda

A bruising Senate confirmation lies ahead for Jane Henney, President Clinton's expected choice to head the Food & Drug Administration. Senate Republicans promise to grill the ex-deputy to former FDA Commissioner David Kessler about topics from tobacco to abortion to regulatory reform.

Henney, 51, now the University of New Mexico's vice-president for health sciences, has bipartisan credentials: As FDA deputy director for operations from 1992 to '94, she served under both Bush and Clinton. Still, her ties to Kessler will be a liability. Many Senate Republicans viewed Kessler as a liberal activist quick to back regulation, particularly of tobacco--but slow to O.K. treatments and medical devices.

Another snag: The FDA soon will be asked to approve an abortion pill. The Religious Right will try to block Henney's confirmation if she doesn't disavow the pill. Henney wins praise from consumer advocates and Senate liberals, such as Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). But that's likely not enough to get her the job.