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Senate Vote: 157     Vote Date: Dec 7th, 2016

Issue: H.R. 34, Title: [with House amendment] 21st Century Cures Act (initially, the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015). Question: On the Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment.

Result: Motion agreed to 94 to 5, 1 not voting. Passed earlier in House (Roll Call 592, 11-30-16). Became Public Law 114-255 (signed by the President, 12-13-2016). GOP scored.

Freedom First Society: This heavily lobbied 312-page “catch-all” bill expands several areas of unconstitutional federal involvement. Its heralded focus is funding innovation in biomedical research and development of new treatments. But the package includes several other proposals, such as Division B, which incorporates H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, passed by the House on July 6, 2016 (Roll Call 355).

Since the 3 Democrats who opposed this bill (along with Bernie Sanders) saw it as a gift to “Big Pharma” rather than objecting to its federal overreach, we do not score the Democrats on this one. 

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary: This 312-page bipartisan “catch-all” package combines many agendas and bills. Here are several:

  • Provides $4.8 billion over 10 years to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Provides States with $1 billion in federal grants over the next 2 years to help combat the opioid epidemic.
  • The Safe Medications for Moms and Babies Act.
  • The EUREKA Act, which incentivizes and rewards research on rare diseases.
  • The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

Analysis: The “Cures Act” advances the collectivist revolution that hypes government as the solution to all problems. This is particularly dangerous when applied to the federal health care system.

The unconstitutional federal assumption of responsibility for universal health care dates back to the Johnson years. That socialist breakthrough occurred after decades of socialist campaigning.

The socialist drivers of this power grab deceitfully argued a pretext of caring concern, but their real agenda has been control — to transform government from servant to master by making the public dependent on government for health care. (See Media-Controlled Delusion, Chapter 1. Socialized Medicine and Code Blue by Edward R. Annis, M.D., a past president of the American Medical Association.)

As the “debates” on this measure makes clear, many in Congress have embraced the concept that that the federal government has unlimited deep pockets and consider it a sin to restrict spending that targets problems. They conveniently ignore where the money comes from and the impact of that cost on the public and the economy. In extolling the virtue of bipartisanship on a socialist playing field, they also exhibit no respect for constitutional limitations on areas of federal involvement.

A few excerpts here from the Senate debate on the House amendment supplement the House debate: 

Congressional Record Excerpts (emphasis added)

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN, Chair, Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee)(12-5-16):

“In his address to the Nation this past weekend, President Obama urged us to vote for the bill today and tomorrow. ‘It could help us find a cure for Alzheimer’s,’ the President said. ‘It could end cancer as we know it and help those seeking treatment for opioid addiction.’ The President continued: ‘It’s an opportunity to save lives and an opportunity we just can’t miss.’

Vice President Biden has been telephoning Senators urging support for 21st Century Cures because, in the Vice President’s words, it is a big step for cancer research and the Cancer Moonshot that is so close to his heart.

Speaker Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives has made 21st Century Cures explicitly a centerpiece of his vision for our country’s future, describing it as ‘bipartisan legislation that would accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of lifesaving treatments.’

With such bipartisan support from the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader — two Democrats, two Republicans — it is no wonder that on last Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved 21st Century Cures by the overwhelming vote of 392 to 26.

This legislation holds the promise of improving the life and health of virtually every family in the country….

“One reason the majority leader calls this the most important piece of legislation Congress will act on this year is because it includes the mental health legislation that these Senators, including Senator Murphy, Senator Cornyn, and Senator Cassidy, have offered.”

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX, Majority Whip)(12-6-16):

This legislation will equip State and local governments with better tools to assess individual health care needs so those suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system can begin to recover and get the help they need, instead of getting sicker.”

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS, Chair, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee) (12-6-16):

“Finally, the 21st Century Cures Act includes numerous priorities that my colleagues on the Finance Committee and I have been working on for several years. One provision I was proud to support in committee extends the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program for another 5 years.

“As our rural hospitals continue to try and make ends meet, this program helps what we call ‘tweener’ hospitals survive. Hospitals that do not qualify as critical access hospitals would not survive under the current Medicare payment system. It is a critical program that benefits Kansans in Junction City, Ulysses, and Fort Scott by keeping their hospital and access care open.”

Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT, Chair, Finance Committee) (12-6-16):

Thanks to this bill, universities across Utah will be able to access the funding streams from the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, and the Cancer Moonshot….

“All told, the current version of the bill includes at least 22 separate provisions that reflect the hard work of Finance Committee members. These include modifications and updates to Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP, along with other important changes to the law….

“A number of measures that I personally worked on as a member of the Senate HELP Committee have also been included in the bill. All told, about 37 provisions in this bill are ones that I either drafted or helped draft at some point during my years in the Senate.

Senator Leahy (D-VT, Ranking Member, Judiciary Committee) (12-7-16):

“I am hopeful that the funding included in this bill will help States move people into treatment to eventually stop the tragic cycle of [opioid] abuse.

“While I strongly support this funding, in addition to the bill’s expansion of medical research and mental health parity, this bill is far from perfect….

“Furthermore, while the bill makes it easier in many cases to get drugs approved, it does nothing to address the unreasonable price hikes we have seen in some prescription drugs….

I am frustrated that a bill of this enormity — that has never been considered by the full Senate — is being placed on the calendar at the end of a session with no opportunity for amendments….

“Nevertheless, improvements were made to this bill before it was considered by the House last week….

“On balance, this is an important piece of legislation that offers a great promise to move the bar forward on medical research, while also providing critical relief to families suffering from opioid addiction. I believe these strong investments will benefit us for generations to come, and I will support the passage of this bill.”

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI, Ranking Member Armed Services Committee) (12-7-16):

“This bill also includes my legislation, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act, which supports youth suicide prevention grants for schools — elementary schools through college where children and young adults spend most of their time — to be able to reach at-risk youth. I am especially pleased that, for the first time, this bill will allow funding to be used for mental health treatment on college campuses, the most effective way to prevent suicide….

“In addition, the bill contains $1 billion in funding for States to respond to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was an important first step in addressing this crisis, but my colleagues on the other side of the aisle voted against efforts to fund the legislation and provide access to treatment in our communities. I am pleased that we will finally have real funding going to communities this year to provide this treatment.

However, I am disappointed that this bill does not make this funding mandatory. We will still have to rely on appropriations in the future to ensure that this funding goes out as intended.”

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)(12-7-16):

“We are at a tremendously exciting era in medicine that will be defined by innovation. Innovation holds great potential….

“I am pleased that the final Cures bill includes the Advancing Targeted Therapies for Rare Diseases Act, legislation that will help advance the development of targeted drugs for patients with serious or life threatening rare genetic diseases.”