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GOP Congressional Leaders Spotlight Medical Innovation Bill for Lame-Duck Passage

Congressional leaders on Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to passing legislation aimed at speeding the development of medical cures before the end of the year.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters their respective chambers were committed to passing a version of medical innovation legislation during the lame-duck session after the elections. The House passed the 21st Century Cures Act last year, but the legislation has stalled in the Senate with lawmakers unable to agree on how to provide funding for the National Institutes of Health.

“I’ve mentioned something that I think is something that I think is extremely important to the country, the 21st Century Cures bill, that I believe both the speaker and myself, and this president and this vice president, not the next ones, really want to accomplish this year,” McConnell said at a press conference.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has passed several smaller bills that Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) planned to compile into one larger measure. But the effort has been stalled as lawmakers try to find a way to pay for new funding that would go along with the measure.

At his own press conference, Ryan said Congress would be focused on finishing work on 21st Century Cures and mental health reform during the lame-duck session. The House has passed both bills, though are delayed in the Senate.

Their comments come after members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who have worked on the medical innovation legislation released a bipartisan statement Wednesday conceding that Congress wouldn’t act on the legislation this month and the issue would be pushed back to after the election.

“We have been working hard for months, and we will continue to work toward an agreement that can pass both chambers and be signed by the president. And the good news is that we are on the cusp of something special,” Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) and Gene Green (D-Texas) said. “We are focused on delivering #CuresNow. At hand is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we’re committed to getting 21st Century Cures signed into law this fall.”