A medical cures bill cleared its first Senate hurdle on Monday evening, as Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE made a rare appearance in the chamber to preside over the vote.
The Senate voted 85-13 to end debate on the proposal. Sixty votes were needed to overcome the procedural test.
The measure seeks to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new drugs, while investing new money in medical research. It also ties in bipartisan healthcare priorities including mental health, funding to fight opioid addiction and $1.8 billion for Biden's cancer "moonshot."
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE praised Biden, who served in the chamber for decades and is well-liked by both parties, noting it is a "rare day" when the vice president oversees a vote.
"Today the Senate would like to specifically acknowledge his efforts to help Americans struggling with cancer. He's known the cruel toll that this disease can take, but he hasn't let it defeat him. He's chosen to fight back," the Kentucky Republican said from the floor. "The Senate will soon pass the 21st Century Cures Act as a testament to his tremendous effort."
Senators broke out in applause from the Senate floor after they agreed to rename the bill's cancer provision after Biden's son, Beau, who died from cancer last year. Lawmakers from both parties, including Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (D-Minn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), also went up to the presiding officer's chair to speak with Biden during the vote.
The House easily cleared the bill in a 392-96 vote last week. The Senate is expected to easily pass the Cures legislation early this week, though it has split Senate Democrats.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) said the legislation wasn't everything he would have wanted, but notes it includes long-sought money to combat the opioid epidemic.
"I think it's too weak in some parts. I think we could have done better," he said. "But I've been around along time and I understand what legislation is all about."
The legislation has gotten pushback from liberal senators, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE (I-Vt.) who voted against ending debate on Monday evening
The Senate's liberal wing argues the bill is a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies and does little to offset rising drug prices.