[Ip-health] Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want medical research bill to pass in lam-duck session

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Sat Oct 1 08:08:14 PDT 2016


The Wall Street Journal

Congressional Leaders Put Medical-Research Bill on Priority List
Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell both want legislation to pass in lame-duck

The legislation could be a boon for medical research, and drug and device
companies, depending on how it is structured. ENLARGE
The legislation could be a boon for medical research, and drug and device
companies, depending on how it is structured.

Sept. 29, 2016 7:25 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Congressional leaders said Thursday that legislation to inject
billions of dollars into federal biomedical research and ease drug
approvals is a main priority for the lame-duck session after the November

The measure is one of the biggest pieces of legislation left on the table
as lawmakers left town on Thursday to campaign for re-election. The fact
that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and House
Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) put it on the agenda for the session suggests
it has a strong chance of advancing in the weeks after the election.

The legislation, which would send billions of dollars to the National
Institutes of Health, could be a boon for medical research and drug and
device companies, depending on how it is structured. It would also ease
Food and Drug Administration approvals of many drugs and devices, though
the House and Senate measures take different approaches. The House passed
its bill in July 2015 and the Senate legislation was approved in committee
this year.

Moving the complex legislation in the lame-duck session could crowd out
other measures left hanging this year, such as a 12-nation trade deal that
is a priority for the Obama administration, the confirmation of a Supreme
Court nominee and changes to the criminal-justice system to respond to
concerns that the federal government is turning too many activities into
crimes. Because Congress also must pass legislation to keep the government
running when current funding expires, there is little time for other
significant votes.


Proposed Medical-Research Law Raises Safety Concerns (May 26)
For the National Institutes of Health, an Infusion of Cash (Feb. 15)

Mr. McConnell said the medical-research bill “could end up being the most
significant piece of legislation we pass in the whole Congress.”

The exact form that any medical-research legislation will take is unclear
due to the number of moving parts, each of which draws support and
opposition across various political coalitions.

The most pressing item on the congressional agenda will be to keep the
government funded beyond Dec. 9, when a temporary spending bill expires.
After passage of longer-term spending legislation, all bets are off, given
the number of priorities competing for attention in the compressed time
frame of the lame-duck session.

But major political figures have a personal stake in some of the
initiatives likely to be funded under the so-called 21st Century Cures
legislation, increasing the odds it will pass later this year in some form.

President Barack Obama is interested in funding for precision medicine,
which is aimed at discovering genetic causes of disease and finding new
drugs to target dangerous mutations. Vice President Joe Biden, whose son
died last year of brain cancer, has been heading up a “cancer moonshot”
effort to speed up research to fight the disease and that effort could be
helped by the bill’s funding.

Mr. McConnell, who spent part of his childhood confined to a bed because he
was stricken with polio, said he is interested in regenerative medicine,
which involves using stem cells or tissue to restore or replace damaged
cells. One candidate for inclusion in any package is a Senate bill, called
the Regrow Act, that would block the FDA’s ability to regulate products
from stem-cell research.

Congress will still have to sort out differences that have hampered action.
The House-passed bill would boost NIH funding by $8.75 billion over five
years and speed up FDA approvals. Safety-advocates balked at provisions
they say would lower safety standards, and such opposition slowed Senate
action on a related bill. There are also tussles over the mechanism for
funding the money that would go to the NIH.

Lame-duck sessions, in which lawmakers convene to write laws after many of
its members have lost re-election, are defined in part by calculations
about whether the next, incoming Congress will be more politically
advantageous for advancing their priorities.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes at wsj.com and Thomas M. Burton at
tom.burton at wsj.com

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
KEI DC tel: +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040, Geneva Mobile:
+41.76.413.6584, twitter.com/jamie_love

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