The Senate moves fast when it wants to. After a hasty meeting in a cloakroom and a midnight vote Saturday, the Senate confirmed David A. Kessler as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Kessler, 39, is medical director of the Jack D. Weiler Hospital at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He also holds a law degree and lectures in food and drug law at Columbia University Law School. He has served for the past year on a panel appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan to suggest improvements to the FDA.

"Dr. Kessler will provide strong, innovative leadership at the FDA," Sullivan said. "We are fortunate to have an individual of his stature and expertise in this vitally important position."

Some administration officials had feared that the Senate would not have time to consider Kessler's nomination until after the elections, given the likelihood that some senators might call for confirmation hearings to assess Kessler's plans for the agency.

But Kessler, whose background and reputation attracted overwhelming support, apparently answered written questions to the satisfaction of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which is chaired by Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

On Saturday, Kennedy called an impromptu meeting of his committee in a Senate cloakroom to pass the Kessler issue to the floor, and then asked the Senate to approve him later that evening.