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Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck

Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Wednesday released a statement pledging to work to get a medical cures bill signed into law “this fall” despite struggling for months to reach a deal. 

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“We have been working hard for months, and we will continue to work toward an agreement that can pass both chambers and be signed by the president,” leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement. 

“And the good news is that we are on the cusp of something special,” they continued. “We are focused on delivering #CuresNow. At hand is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we’re committed to getting 21st Century Cures signed into law this fall.”

The lawmakers acknowledged that the bill would not move before Congress leaves town for the elections, but they are pledging to push it in a lame-duck session later this year.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has made the bill, which aims to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new drugs and invest new funds in medical research, his signature issue. 

The measure passed the House on a bipartisan vote last year but since then has been stuck in the Senate amid months of negotiations over that chamber’s version of the bill. 

Sensing that the clock is ticking, Upton in recent weeks has been pushing to introduce a new version of the legislation in the House to jump-start the process. 

But negotiators were unable to reach a bipartisan deal in time to introduce legislation and pass it through the House before the upcoming recess. Finding a bipartisan way to pay for several billion dollars in new medical research funding has long been the holdup. 

New legislation will now not be introduced until after the recess, but the bipartisan leaders are releasing Wednesday’s statement to show that they are still committed to getting something done. 

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Upton's main partner on the bill, also signed the statement, along with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the committee’s top Democrat, and Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), and Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenBottom line Texas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress MORE (D-Texas).

The lead negotiators on the Senate side, Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (D-Wash.) also released a statement on Wednesday pledging to work for a bill to pass this year. 

"We’ve been working for a year and a half on behalf of patients and scientists, and we are committed to getting a result this year that will lead to lifesaving medical breakthroughs and advance President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative and Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot,” Alexander and Murray said.

House and Senate negotiators have been speaking to each other as they look for a deal, and leadership is also involved. 

Alexander this month pointed in particular to the fact that the bill could provide funding for the cancer “moonshot,” among other research priorities. 

“The Speaker of the House of Representatives is turning somersaults to try to find a way for us to be able to find the money for that as well as for opioids and other important projects that we would like to fund,” Alexander said on the Senate floor. 

This story was updated at 12:02 p.m.