Cures Act sponsors warn against Trump’s hiring freeze

Greg Nash

Two lawmakers who led a bipartisan medical innovation bill last year are warning that President Trump’s hiring freeze on federal workers could harm its implementation. 

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said Tuesday at an event hosted by The Hill that they want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be able to hire more workers in order to expedite the approval of new drugs and devices, as their measure, the 21st Century Cures Act, intends. 

“[There are] a couple big things with the new Trump administration, don’t have an answer yet but both of us are working in a bipartisan way again,” Upton said. “First of all, [the] hiring freeze.”

{mosads}“They can’t have a hiring freeze because we need more bodies to get these devices and products to market,” he said. 

DeGette added that the bill’s new money for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) won’t do much good if the new discoveries can’t get approved in a timely way. 

“If you don’t have the staffing and resources at the FDA to actually do the drug and device approval process, then it doesn’t really help you if you come up with the most fantastic new cures with the NIH money that we’ve gotten,” DeGette said. “That’s why the FDA is just so critical.”

The lawmakers said they had not yet received a response to a letter they sent to the White House on the hiring freeze. 

Upton stressed that he is wary of budget cuts to the FDA that could effect the bill.

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law last year, seeks to speed up the approval of new drugs and invest new money in medical research. It ended up passing on a largely bipartisan vote. 

On a far more politically charged issue this year, the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, Upton acknowledged that Republicans are still looking to unite their party around a plan.

“There’s a lot of different factions,” he said. 

DeGette pushed for Republicans to work with Democrats to improve the law, rather than repeal it.

“I’ve told many of my Republican colleagues, we are eager to help on improving the Affordable Care Act, because we do think there are issues that can really be improved on, making the exchanges more robust and competitive, helping people who have these very high deductibles and so on,” she said. 

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