The Senate's health committee announced Tuesday it will not take up a major House-passed biomedical research package known as 21st Century Cures, dealing a major blow to leaders in the lower chamber.
Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), who heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said Tuesday that members will vote separately on bills ranging from neurological diseases research to electronic medical records.
“The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The president has announced his support for a precision medicine initiative and a cancer ‘moonshot.’ It is urgent that the Senate finish its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every American,” Alexander wrote in a statement, provided first to The Hill.
The markups will begin in February, with the third and final meeting scheduled for April.
The Senate’s strategy for passing bipartisan biomedical research legislation is a far cry from the House, where the Energy and Commerce Committee spent more than a year working on a final package. That legislation overwhelmingly passed in July, led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
Since the House bill's passage in July, the multibillion-dollar measure has failed to gain any traction in the Senate.
Alexander’s plan likely means that Republicans and Democrats failed to strike compromises on funding, which has been a major sticking point.
The House bill included more than $8 billion in new funding for researchers at agencies like the National Institutes of Health, though Democrats were forced to swallow other pharma-friendly provisions like an overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration.
The Senate committee’s bills are likely to draw controversy from at least some Republicans — it will include both President Obama’s “precision medicine” initiative as well as Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” bid to end cancer.