House passes drug bill that stalled over Jan. 6 tensions

House passes drug bill that stalled over Jan. 6 tensions
© Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed a previously noncontroversial drug bill meant to help more opioid treatments go on the market, after the bill stalled last week because of unrelated tensions over the Jan. 6 insurrection.

House Democratic leaders initially scheduled a vote on the bill, called the Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act, under an expedited process last week that would have required a two-thirds supermajority for passage.

But the bill's primary author, Rep. Madeleine DeanMadeleine DeanLiberals tone down calls to 'defund police' amid GOP attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Pa.), refused to allow a Republican who was a lead co-sponsor in the last session of Congress to share the same role again because of his vote to challenge the presidential election results in Pennsylvania on Jan. 6.

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That Republican, Rep. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterSchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Trump says Herschel Walker will enter Georgia Senate race Bottom line MORE (R-Ga.), responded to Dean's refusal to let him be a lead co-sponsor again by urging fellow Republicans to vote against the bill last Tuesday, even though the House previously passed it by voice vote in the last session of Congress.

But during the second attempt on Wednesday, the House passed the bill overwhelmingly by a 402-23 vote.

Dean — who served as one of the House managers during former President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE's second impeachment trial in February following the insurrection — said she didn't feel comfortable having Carter sign on as a lead co-sponsor. She said she offered to let Carter be a regular co-sponsor instead, which led Democrats to set up consideration of the bill under the expedited process last week.

Carter ultimately rejected Dean's offer that stopped short of lead co-sponsorship, resulting in all but 36 Republicans voting against the bill last week. Since the bill didn't secure a two-thirds supermajority, House Democratic leaders brought the bill up for a vote under a process only needing a simple majority.

"I said, I need to take a stand, at least in terms of lead co-sponsorship, that I will not lift up as a leader somebody who voted not to certify the election when that was connected to an insurrection, a lot of disinformation, and sadly, many of our constituents misled," Dean told reporters last week.

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"And so, he was mad at me," she said.

Carter said after the bill failed to pass last week that Democrats were trying to "bring cancel culture to the House" and "chose partisan political games and their Trump Derangement Syndrome over advancing what should have been bipartisan legislation in a bipartisan way."

Fellow Republicans did not express opposition to the legislation itself during House floor debate, but argued Carter shouldn't have been left off as a lead co-sponsor.

"Not only did the Democrats ignore the spirit of bipartisanship by which they claim to abide and block Republican Members from signing on to this bill, they did so by continuing to ram through bills without any respect for process," said Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.).

The legislation would amend the Orphan Drug Act, which incentivizes prescription drug manufacturers to develop so-called orphan drugs to treat rare diseases, by requiring all companies that secure seven years of market exclusivity to provide proof that they don't expect to recoup the costs of research and development through sales of a drug.

Lawmakers said it would help increase access to low-cost treatments for opioid abuse and other diseases.

"This legislation works to prevent companies from continuing to use orphan drug exclusivity status for a newly approved drug with an identical ingredient to the former version without having to prove the inability to recoup costs," Dean said Wednesday during House floor debate.

The House is also set to pass legislation later Wednesday to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The legislation was negotiated by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements Pelosi considering Kinzinger for Jan. 6 panel: report House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE (D-Miss.) and the panel's top Republican, Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoSenators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role McCarthy yanks all GOP picks from Jan. 6 committee MORE (N.Y.).

While some Republicans like Katko plan to vote for the bill, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (R-Calif.) came out in opposition on Tuesday and argued the commission should expand its scope to include other instances of political violence as he and other Republicans have sought to downplay Trump's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOvernight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade S.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto MORE's (R-La.) office also sent House GOP members a "leadership recommendation" to vote against the bill.

"This Commission cannot investigate the political violence leading up to and following the attack on the 6th, including the June 2017 shooting at the Republican Congressional baseball practice, and the deadly attack on Capitol Police on April 2, 2021," the notice states.