Sen. Tom Harkin's legacy of 40 years in Congress will be legislation and advocacy that has benefitted the health and welfare of the American people.
Harkin (D-IA) said his signature legislative achievement is authoring the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Four years later, he teamed with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch to author the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA)—the legislation most near and dear to the dietary supplements industry as well as health freedom advocates around the nation.
Harkin, 73, was also a significant player in advocating for the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He is also chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP).
And it arguably started when he was given a dietary supplement of bee pollen, which he says cured his allergies. This led directly to him establishing what was to become the National Institutes of Health's Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a research center that focuses on researching supplement-style ingredients and modalities. NCCAM receives more than $100 million in annual funding.
Harkin’s power was demonstrated just this past summer when Sen. Hatch, along with DSHEA co-author and fellow industry champion Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), prevailed upon the FDA to re-think its New Dietary Ingredients rule. The NDI rule was largely panned by the industry as a wholesale reinterpretation of DSHEA and an illegal power grab by the FDA. The agency largely obliged, and while it’s too early to tell what the revised rule will look like, it’s fair to say the senators’ advocacy on behalf of the industry was aptly demonstrated and benefitted a concerned industry.