Senate passes House-approved FDA bill

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The chamber approved the motion to concur in the House message accompanying the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187), in a vote of 92 to four. It now goes to Obama's desk to be signed into law.

The bill, which creates a new user-fee program in order to streamline the FDA's authorization system of generic and biosimilar drugs, as well as modernize FDA authority and improve patient safety, had previously been approved in the House unanimously after it passed the Senate in a vote of 96 to 1.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, praised the Senate's passage of the bill.

"Mr. President, with the FDA Safety and Innovation Act ready to be signed into law, we have taken an important step to improve American families' access to life-saving drugs and medical devices," Harkin said. This bill's passage is a victory for the millions of Americans who need medicine or medical devices, a victory that wouldn't have been possible without our Senate family."

Just ahead of the vote, Harkin pushed back on a claim by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) that the bill was being rushed through and should be slowed down to consider a number of amendments Burr wanted attached to the bill.

"The vote in the Senate was 96 to 1. The vote in the House was unanimous. That doesn't happen if a bill is tried to be rushed through. Anybody tries to rush a bill through is not going to get 96 votes in the Senate or a unanimous vote in the House," Harkin said.

After it passed his chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Harkin on their handling of the bill's passage through the Senate, carefully crafting it in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and then introducing it in the Senate. The bill was quickly passed in the Senate after legislators came to an agreement on considering 17 amendments to the bill.

"I have already said in my caucus how much I appreciate the work of Sen. Enzi," Reid said after the Senate passed the FDA bill and sent it to the House in late May. "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."

—This story was updated at 5:42 p.m.