GOP chairman sees funding deal soon on medical cures bill

GOP chairman sees funding deal soon on medical cures bill
© Getty Images

The leader of the House’s landmark medical cures legislation expressed hope on Wednesday that the bill is moving ahead in the Senate after nearly a year of delay.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said Wednesday his Senate counterparts are inching toward a deal on how to pay for the bill, something he said could be reached “in the next couple of weeks.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re already at second base,” Upton said at an event on rare diseases hosted by The Hill and sponsored by PhRMA.

“We’ve got to find the offsets. We’re in the midst of doing it. We’ve had some very positive discussions.”

Upton was chief sponsor of the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House near-unanimously last July. Since then, however, the bill has stalled in the Senate, where lawmakers have struggled to find offsets for a key part of the bill – new mandatory spending on medical research.

The Michigan Republican wouldn’t give a timeline for when the bill could reach the floor, though, he has said he hopes to complete the task before his term as chairman expires this year.

Upton said paying for the bill remains the last hurdle before it can reach the Senate floor.

“If we’re able to do that, my sense is that the Majority Leader, McConnell, will make room and get it to the Senate floor so we can go to conference,” Upton said.

The leaders of the biomedical cures effort in the upper chamber are Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Life after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills MORE (D-Wash.), the top-ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe US needs to lead again on disability rights No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test New ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds MORE (D-Pa.), a member of both the Senate’s health and finance committees, voiced some optimism at The Hill event on Wednesday but hinted work on the legislation could carry into 2017.

“I’m confident that it can get done, it’s just the question of when,” Casey said, noting the congressional and presidential elections this fall. “It’s a challenging year.”

Several pieces of the House’s 21st Century Cures bill have already passed through the HELP committee. Now, Upton said, the Senate’s leaders are focused on the bill’s “innovation fund,” which includes funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Upton said the Senate is looking to dedicate a larger portion of that funding pool to tackle diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s, which he said “helps sell it” to more members.

He attributed some of the progress to a recent meeting between Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Top Zelensky aide refutes Sondland testimony The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence MORE in late March and lawmakers from both the House and Senate. Biden has become a key public advocate for increased medical research funding in Congress after the death of his son to brain cancer last year.