Senate to break up House-passed 'cures' bill

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The Senate's health committee announced Tuesday it will not take up a major House-passed biomedical research package known as 21st Century Cures, dealing a major blow to leaders in the lower chamber.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (R-Tenn.), who heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said Tuesday that members will vote separately on bills ranging from neurological diseases research to electronic medical records.

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“The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The president has announced his support for a precision medicine initiative and a cancer ‘moonshot.’ It is urgent that the Senate finish its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every American,” Alexander wrote in a statement, provided first to The Hill.

The markups will begin in February, with the third and final meeting scheduled for April.

The Senate’s strategy for passing bipartisan biomedical research legislation is a far cry from the House, where the Energy and Commerce Committee spent more than a year working on a final package. That legislation overwhelmingly passed in July, led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Since the House bill's passage in July, the multibillion-dollar measure has failed to gain any traction in the Senate.

Alexander’s plan likely means that Republicans and Democrats failed to strike compromises on funding, which has been a major sticking point.

The House bill included more than $8 billion in new funding for researchers at agencies like the National Institutes of Health, though Democrats were forced to swallow other pharma-friendly provisions like an overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration.

The Senate committee’s bills are likely to draw controversy from at least some Republicans — it will include both President Obama’s “precision medicine” initiative as well as Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” bid to end cancer.