McConnell: Cures bill a ‘top priority’ in lame-duck

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a medical cures bill will be a “top priority” in the lame-duck session after the election. 

{mosads}“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 Ryan (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 Alexander (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.

Tags Lamar Alexander Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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