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 CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGiuliani: White House wants briefing on classified meeting over Russia probe GOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump now says Korea summit could still happen June 12 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 WhitehouseSenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation EPA extends comment period on controversial science transparency rule House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump 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.