GOP chairman eyes lame-duck for passing medical cures bill

GOP chairman eyes lame-duck for passing medical cures bill

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is looking to the lame-duck session after the election for passage of his signature 21st Century Cures Act, acknowledging that there is not enough time to get it done before Congress leaves this fall. 

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“Knowing that the Senate is likely to file their CR next week…and say see ya in November it’s darn near impossible to get a bill through both the House and the Senate [before Congress breaks],” Upton told reporters Wednesday. 

Pushing the timeline until after the election is the latest step in a long slog for the bill which aims to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for new cures. The bill passed the House more than a year ago on a strong bipartisan vote, but since then has been mired in the Senate as lawmakers try to agree on how to pay for the new funding for research at the National Institutes of Health. 

The timeline has already been pushed back multiple times, but Upton said he is not giving up hope for getting the measure signed into law this year, after the election. 

He replied “oh yeah,” when asked if it would get done this year. 

“We’ve had a lot of good discussions and I remain encouraged we’ll get it done in this Congress,” he said. 

“Watch the magic,” he added. 

Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday Senate Democrats propose canceling student loan payments during coronavirus Stimulus plan hinges on McConnell, Schumer repairing toxic relationship MORE (D-Wash.) are still trying to work out a deal on the Senate’s version of the bill. 

Alexander wants to get the bill through the Senate this month, but time is running short. 

Sources say that the Senate is also eyeing a December timeframe, and that funding to fight the opioid crisis could be included in the deal. 

Upton, while keeping his cards close to his chest, implied that the amount of NIH funding could come down at least slightly from the roughly $9 billion over five years in the original House bill. He noted that the regular appropriations process has included proposed increases of as much as $2 billion for NIH next year. 

“So we’re looking at the whole picture,” he said.