Senate Poised To Vote On Cures Bill; Headed To Likely Enactment This Term
Following House passage of a combined House/Senate 21st Century Cures package Nov. 30, the Senate will take up the bill on Dec. 5 or 6, said Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who shepherded a similar package of medical innovation bills through the committee earlier this year. While some Democrats remain vocal in opposing the bill based on worries that it will water-down FDA safety protections and funding concerns, the House vote showed lopsided support, and the Senate is expected to pass it and the president to sign.
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Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged US Department of Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price to preserve the "Open Payments" database that was established by Grassley's Physician Payment Sunshine Act, even if the Affordable Care Act, by which the Sunshine law was enacted, is repealed.
With the president's signature of the 21st Century Cures Act, US FDA has $20m in FY 2017 to begin carrying out a multitude of reforms in the law. Meanwhile, the regular budget appropriated by Congress will remain at 2016 levels through April. But as of Dec. 14, device center director Jeff Shuren said he did not know the amounts specifically that would go to his center. And now FDA supporters wonder if the Cures dollars will be tapped to do regular agency work.
The Senate approved the same 21st Century Cures bill passed by the House last week on a 94-5 tally; the bill is expected to be quickly signed by President Obama. Provisions for extra dollars for FDA in the bill means that even with a plan by Congress to adopt a continuing resolution this week freezing FDA funding until April 28, the agency can rely on an additional $20 million set aside for it in Cures in the new year.