Senate

Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle

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A medical cures bill cleared its first Senate hurdle on Monday evening, as Vice President Joe Biden 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. 
 
{mosads}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 McConnell 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 Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jeff Flake (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 Reid (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 Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (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.
Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Harry Reid Jeff Flake Joe Biden Mitch McConnell
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