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Congressional Leaders Put 21st Century Medical-Research Bill on Priority List

Capitol Dome HEALTHCAREWashington, DC, September 30, 2016The Wall Street Journal reported 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 elections.

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.

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