For Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, just passing a medical-innovation bill is not enough. The term-limited chairman wants to knock it out of the park, sending a strong message to the Senate and securing a legacy item that could potentially save lives.
There's just one thing standing in his way: Austerity.
Budget Chairman Tom Price is pushing back against the 21st Century Cures Act, according to several sources, wary of a bill that in his estimation creates a federal spending mandate by authorizing a five-year, $10 billion fund within the National Institutes of Health.
"That's what Tom Price is saying," Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers said Wednesday. "In essence, it is taking mandatory savings and then letting that money be disbursed through the normal process."
Price raised objections at a stakeholders meeting last week and again at a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday morning. But Rogers, who also had problems with the bill before the decision was made to allow his committee to appropriate the mandatory savings, said he supports it.
"Plus, I think the merits of the program can be revolutionary," Rogers said.
The dilemma is not a new one for the GOP. Voices in the party have for a few years been pushing to shed the draconian image of a party so preoccupied with budget cuts that they will not spend money on medical research or other worthy pursuits. But the party's push for austerity has been a strong countervailing voice.