Cancer research bill adopted as defense bill amendment

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Nearly 300 members in the House signed on to support the bill before its passage — after a leadership-sponsored overhaul — in September.

The original version would have directed the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to spend $887.8 million on pancreatic cancer research and create a special 13-member advisory panel to direct the efforts.

The NCI objected to the proposed infringement on its peer-review system, and suggested that prioritizing one condition over another poses ethical challenges for disease scientists.

The first concern, shared by some lawmakers, is that federal health research would become a "Disease Olympics," prompting requests from disease advocates of every stripe.

Sen. Tom CoburnTom Coburn'Path of least resistance' problematic for Congress Freedom Caucus saved Paul Ryan's job: GOP has promises to keep Don't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC MORE (R-Okla.) made this argument in placing a hold on the bill in September — a hold he maintained until this week.

"We can serve patients best by allowing NIH to determine how to allocate its funding and manpower," he wrote to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellHealthcare saga shaping GOP approach to tax bill Key Senate Republican offers dim outlook for Trump budget Senate votes to confirm US ambassador to China MORE (R-Ky.).

"Congress should have no role in micromanaging the agency [sic] how to perform its research."

On Thursday, Coburn argued that the bill would delay the progress of pancreatic cancer research, but allowed it to pass on a voice vote.

The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseIt’s time to rethink prisoner re-entry Lawmakers vow to move ahead with Russia probes Senate panel advances Trump's appeals court nominee MORE (D-R.I.), had 18 GOP co-sponsors.

"The strong, bipartisan vote for this provision is a reflection of the devastating impact these diseases have on families across the country," Whitehouse said in a statement. "I hope it might also signal a brighter future for recalcitrant cancer patients and their families. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues."

The White House has threatened to veto the defense bill over the Senate's departures from the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request and provisions limiting transfers of detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

Final votes are expected Thursday night or Friday. 

—This post was updated at 6:11 p.m.