November 29, 2016 at 8:07 pm ET
Cures Bill Set to Pass House
The House is poised to pass a major medical innovation bill on Wednesday, aimed at speeding up and modernizing the development of medical cures.
The measure includes $6.3 million in funding, and is expected to include a mental health care reform bill and federal grants for states dealing with the opioid addiction crisis. It aims to bring drugs and devices to market more quickly by expediting federal review of new products.
A version of the bill was first passed by the House last year, but was stalled in the Senate over funding disagreements. A final draft was released late last week, with a manager’s amendment finalizing last-minute negotiations released Tuesday. Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who have lead the work on the measure, say they expect a strong vote in favor of it.
Still, the vote comes after about a year of negotiations between both parties in the House and Senate. Upton and DeGette say the measure is a compromise among all interested groups.
Some Democrats raised concerns about the measure during a House Rules hearing Tuesday. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said he was concerned that the funding going to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration was reduced from an earlier version, and that it isn’t mandatory.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sought to ease concerns about funding.
“There is a process that the Speaker and appropriators are basically pushing to provide this funding,” he said, seeking to ease McGovern’s concerns about funding not being mandatory at Tuesday’s Rules hearing. “We’re going to have to rely on Fred and Diana and myself to make sure this happens.”
The new money for the Food and Drug Administration is what the agency says is necessary to fulfill mandates included in the bill, DeGette and Upton say. Democrats faced resistance to including mandatory funding for the FDA, DeGette added.
Other “no” votes could come from far-right Republicans, many of whom voted against the first copy of the measure last year. The conservative Heritage Foundation is urging members to vote against it.
Still, advocates expect the measure to pass. The Senate could take a procedural vote on the measure as soon as Monday or Tuesday of next week, says Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who has been leading the effort in the Senate as the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He said he’s optimistic the measure would garner 60 votes in the Senate.
Some members, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have said they will oppose the bill. Still, Alexander said he expects the measure to pass, citing other provisions like opioid funding as enticements.
“I can’t imagine senators voting ‘no’ on a billion dollars of new funding for state grants of opioids,” he said.