The sprint to the House floor of a medical-innovation bill, touted thus far as bipartisan, has been stalled by a partisan divide over the question of how to pay for it.
Democrats were only notified of the spending offsets to the bill—the 21st Century Cures Initiative—Tuesday night, and they weren't thrilled with Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton.
"People on the committee—not necessarily on health subcommittee—felt very railroaded by being just presented a package of cuts and pay-fors at this late date," said Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. "We were given some pay-fors to consider and it was not well-received in the Democratic caucus of Energy and Commerce, and so we're back to the drawing board with Fred."
The Energy and Commerce panel began marking up the bill Tuesday night with opening statements, and was scheduled to continue Wednesday morning, but the markup was delayed because of the disagreement over pay-fors. Upton has said he hopes to have the bill on President Obama's desk by the end of the year.
"We're trying to get bipartisan support for this. But we're not quite there yet," Upton said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "We'll know more by the time we have our next round of votes."
The proposed offsets have not been made public, although Schakowsky said that she "was not going to vote for any Medicare cuts whatsoever. I would have opposed the bill."
The current draft of the bill allocates $2 billion a year for five years to the National Institutes of Health. It also aims to support researchers and young scientists, streamline clinical trials, and establish a public-private partnership to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of cures, treatments, and preventive measures. Additionally, it would require the FDA to issue guidance in the development of biomarkers, precision drugs, and biological products.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Upton didn't elaborate on the delay, although his office said members needed more time to review offset provisions. "We will reconvene bright and early tomorrow," Upton wrote. "My partner in this effort for the past year, Diana DeGette [D-Colo.], asked for one more day so members can digest these policies further, and we respect that request," he said.
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Caitlin Owens is a health care reporter at National Journal. Her work has previously appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.