A Senate committee moved forward Wednesday with the final set of biomedical innovations bills that complement the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act, but all members agreed they could not bring the legislation to the floor without a still-pending agreement on mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said a package could be the “most important bill Congress enacts this year” if an agreement is reached.
“We're not there yet but we're making progress,” he said.
Three markup sessions have results in 19 bills, most of which passed by a unanimous voice vote. But the funding agreement has always been hanging over the process. The Senate calendar and presidential election distractions mean time to reach an agreement is short.
The House easily passed the 21st Century Cures Act in July and it included nearly $9 billion in increased funding for NIH over the next five years. Senate HELP committee Democrats have proposed $5 billion a year for the next 10 years for a Biomedical Innovation Fund for NIH and Food and Drug Administration projects.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday again declined to force a vote on the amendment, but said it is a good faith effort to find agreement with Republicans. “We will lose a generation of scientists because this Congress refused to fund their work,” she said.