Senate passes FDA reauthorization

The Senate approved a Food and Drug Administration reauthorization bill on Thursday.

The final tally was 96 to 1.

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The bill, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S.3187), sponsored by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), creates a user-fee program for biosimilar and generic drugs to speed up FDA approval of those drugs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill's passage was how all legislation should move through the Senate.

"I know people are anxious to move on and I am too but I have to say just a word," Reid said after the vote. "I have already said in my caucus how much I appreciate the work of Sen. Enzi. He is a fine senator. He and Sen. Harkin have worked so well together on this. It's exemplary for what the rest of us should do. I appreciate very much the work they have done. I repeat, it's how we should get other work done.

Reid added that because of Enzi and Harkin, the Senate was able to pass the bill "in a very short period of time and do good things for the American people."

The bill could either be taken up by the House or reconciled with a House-version of the legislation that the House is working on but has not passed yet.

The bill's passage came just a day after the the Senate reached an agreement over how many amendments to consider adding to the bill. Under the agreement, the Senate agreed to consider 17 amendments and then quickly move to a final vote on the bill.

Reid had been strongly urging the chamber to quickly pass the legislation without lots of negotiating over amendments. Other recent legislation has been delayed in the Senate because Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a finite amount of amendments to consider.

Reid had previously warned that if the Senate could not pass the bill on Thursday or earlier he would have to file cloture and move on to other legislation.

When the Senate reached an agreement on the 17 amendments, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it was a "good agreement that allows us to go forward on the FDA bill with appropriate amendments."

Under the amendment agreement the Senate immediately moves to consideration of two proposals for extending the interest rate on Stafford student loans. The Senate had previously left an extension of the rate in limbo after Republicans blocked a Democratic version of the extension from advancing.