Still, they are not declaring the effort dead.
Instead, Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee_, the chairman of the Senate health committee, said late Monday he hopes the Senate can reach an agreement and pass the legislation in September, when lawmakers return from a seven-week break.
“This could be the most important legislation Congress passes this year, and there’s no excuse for not finishing our work in September,” Chairman Alexander said in a statement, noting that the package would include funding for President Obama’s precision medicine initiative and Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer research program.
Chairman Alexander’s July 11 statement said:
‘“Majority Leader McConnell says he wants to pass the bill this year,’ said Senator Alexander. ‘This could be the most important legislation Congress passes this year, and there’s no excuse for not finishing our work in September.’”
“Senator Alexander continued: ‘In 10 years, the head of the National Institutes of Health predicts we'll have a universal flu vaccine, hearts rebuilt from a patient's own cells so we don’t have to do transplants, non-addictive pain medication, and the ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms, and delay the onset of this disease which causes untold family grief.’”
But according to Nather’s report, the reality is that the legislation has been bogged down for weeks as Republicans have haggled with Senate Democrats over how much funding should be in the package and what other programs should be cut to pay for it.
Privately, Senate Democrats aren’t convinced that much progress can be made in September, since it will be the height of election season and there won’t be much incentive for the Republicans who run the Senate to work with Democrats on bipartisan legislation.
If the legislation isn’t brought to the Senate floor before the election, the other option would be to try to finish the work in a “lame duck” session of Congress — when lawmakers sometimes try to pass a series of stalled bills in a sudden rush of last-minute work.
The House passed its version of the so-called 21st Century Cures Act in July 2015. But Alexander has taken a different approach, splitting it into a series of smaller, non-controversial bills that have been approved by his committee.
On January 19, Chairman Alexander released the Senate health committee’s mark-up schedule for step by step consideration of biomedical innovation bills, saying, “The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The president has announced his support for a precision medicine initiative and a cancer ‘moonshot.’ It is urgent that the Senate finish its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every American.”
On February 9, the Senate health committee kicked off its biomedical innovation agenda, passing seven bills with bipartisan support.
On March 9, the committee passed 7 more bipartisan biomedical innovation bills.
The committee completed its work on marking up biomedical innovation bills on April 6.
For Nather’s full STAT story, click here.
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