McConnell: Cures bill a 'top priority' in lame-duck

McConnell: Cures bill a 'top priority' in lame-duck
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday McConnell: Senate impeachment trial will begin in January MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a medical cures bill will be a “top priority” in the lame-duck session after the election. 


“We’ve got about three weeks back here after the election,” McConnell said at a press conference. “My own personal priorities are funding the government and the 21st Century Cures bill, which I think could end up being the most significant piece of legislation we pass in the whole Congress.”

The measure is aimed at speeding up the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for new drugs and investing new money in medical research. 

McConnell noted that the measure enjoys support from many corners, given that it could be a way to fund priorities such as Vice President Biden’s cancer-research initiative.

“The president’s interested in it, precision medicine; the vice president’s interested in it, cancer moonshot; I’m interested in it, regenerative medicine,” McConnell said. “There are a lot of us who are deeply invested in that, and I think that will be a top priority in the Senate in the lame-duck as well as funding the government.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.) also mentioned the Cures bill on Thursday as a priority for the lame duck session, in addition to mental health legislation, a version of which has passed the House but is waiting for action in the Senate. 

Despite the desire in both parties to get the bill done, it has been delayed for months as negotiators have struggled to find a bipartisan way to pay for the billions of dollars in new funding for medical research. 

“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,” Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderImpeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight 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 MORE (R-Tenn.) said on the Senate floor last week.

The original version that passed the House last year had $8.75 billion over five years, though that number could be cut in the final version of the bill. 

House lawmakers, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) are looking to introduce a new, possibly slimmed down, version of the bill in the House, in consolation with the Senate. That new measure could then pass the House and then the Senate in the lame-duck session. 

Negotiators have still not reached a deal, though. Upton had looked to possibly get a House vote before the recess, but negotiators ran out of time.

This story was updated at 1:59 p.m.