Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Urges Colleagues to Support 21st Century Cures
Utah Senator Says "The 21st Century Cures Act represents a significant investment in improving our ability to discover and develop new treatments and medicines and ensure that patients have access to them.”
WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on colleagues to support the 21st Century Cures bill and highlighted a number of bipartisan Senate Finance Committee provisions included in the bill.
“This important legislation represents the hard work of members from both parties and from both sides of the Capitol and has support across the economic and ideological spectrum,” Hatch said. “The Finance Committee has worked tirelessly to advance a number of bipartisan legislative efforts and address the concerns of our members’ constituents. The current version of the bill includes at least 22 separate provisions that reflect the hard work of Finance Committee Members.”
Hatch went on to reaffirm his commitment to advancing the Families First Prevention Services Act, a bill with broad bipartisan and bicameral support.
“I was disappointed that the bill before us does not include provisions from the Family First Prevention Services Act introduced earlier this year,” Hatch said. “It has broad support from members of both parties and in both chambers, and all of us will have to keep looking for any reasonable vehicle or opportunity to move this important bill in the near future.”
The complete statement for the record is below:
Mr. President, I rise today in support of the 21st Century Cures Act, the bill currently before us that, if all goes well, will be approved by the Senate very shortly.
This important legislation represents the hard work of members from both parties and from both sides of the Capitol. It has support across the economic and ideological spectrum and promises to do quite a bit of good for a number of people.
Put simply – or as simply as one can for a measure of this size – the 21st Century Cures Act represents a significant investment in improving our ability to discover and develop new treatments and medicines and ensure that patients have access to them.
To accomplish this goal, this legislation, among many other things, provides a much-needed expansion of funding for the National Institutes of Health, improvements to the approval process at the Food and Drug Administration, resources to respond to the growing opioid abuse crisis, and an updated government framework for addressing mental health needs.
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. Utah is known for its ability to leverage significant public-private partnerships to work towards cutting-edge health and innovation. I am proud to represent a state where complex technologies are being utilized to help patients find the best treatments and avoid interventions that would be costly, invasive, and ineffective.
Over the past several months, I have had several meaningful experiences working to improve health care for the people of Utah and for all Americans. For example, I had the pleasure of welcoming Vice President Biden to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah as part of his Cancer Research Center tour.
The Vice President and I had an insightful discussion about a number of promising therapies being developed in Utah. This legislation will provide an infusion of funding for these types of projects that will improve lives for individuals and families across our country and around the world.
Among the many noteworthy provisions in this bill are several items advocated by members of the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair. Throughout the 114th Congress, the Finance Committee has worked tirelessly to advance a number of bipartisan legislative efforts and address the concerns of our members’ constituents.
We’ve reported more bills out of the committee in this Congress than really in any other Congress in modern history, all of them – every single one – with bipartisan support. The long list includes bills in virtually every area of the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, including health care policy.
Some of these priorities – and many others – have been included in the Cures Act.
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.
I want to collectively thank the members of the Finance Committee for the work they’ve done on these measures and on everything else we’ve been able to accomplish over the last two years.
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 ether drafted or helped draft at some point during my years in the Senate.
For now, I want to focus on my work to help those in the rare disease community. Millions of Americans suffer from unexplainable illnesses that leave them feeling abandoned and alone. And, if we do not address the dry pipeline for drugs that end up treating just a few hundred patients, we are making a national decision that these people do not matter.
None of us should accept that.
To address these concerns, I worked to include specific measures in the Cures Act that improve pediatric care and expedite the drug approval process for rare diseases, ensuring that thousands of patients get the treatments they need when they need them.
With this bill, Congress will make significant steps in helping Americans with rare diseases, but our work will be far from over. Mr. President, families affected by rare diseases have united around the country to speak with a growing voice, and we need to do all we can to make sure their pleas do not fall on deaf ears.
Mr. President, as you can see, there are a number of good things to say about the 21st Century Cures Act. However, I don’t want to leave the impression that the bill is perfect from my point of view. While I support the bill and plan to vote in favor of passage, I do want to make note of what are, in my view, some of the bill’s shortcomings.
As this legislation was being developed, I noted that I had concerns with some of the pay-fors that were being thrown around. I have always supported the goals of this legislation and believed it was important that we try to move it forward.
However, I do not believe we should be setting undesirable precedents when it comes to funding these types of endeavors.
Early on in this process, some publicly expressed their belief that the spending in this bill could be paid for by making alterations to federal health entitlement programs, namely Medicare and Medicaid.
I’ll spare my colleagues a lecture on the budget process today. Instead, I’ll just note that, while there are a number of areas where we can responsibly find savings in these programs, we have almost always tried to avoid diverting funds from these programs – which constitute mandatory spending – to pay for discretionary spending programs.
And, put simply, I believe we need to continue following what has generally been a bright-line rule in that regard. If we start casually comingling mandatory and discretionary funds, we run the risk of greatly expanding discretionary spending programs while simultaneously weakening our entitlement programs that are already on the brink of fiscal crisis.
Fortunately, the main proponents of the Cures Act have been willing to work with me and they’ve scaled back their initial efforts to use the mandatory spending sources to pay for the bill. While those pay-fors haven’t been entirely purged from the bill, I do not intend to vote against the legislation on that basis.
That said, I do want to make clear that this shouldn’t become a legislative template or be considered a precedent for how Congress will pay for new spending in the future.
And, as the chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction over most of the relevant mandatory spending programs, I intend to do all I can to make sure we avoid this practice going forward.
In addition, I want to say that I was disappointed that the bill before us does not include provisions from the Family First Prevention Services Act, which Senator Wyden and I, along with our counterparts in the House, introduced earlier this year.
This is common sense legislation that, in my view, would be a good fit for this vehicle. It has broad support from members of both parties and in both chambers, and we all worked to get it included in this package. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to complete this task. So, all of us will have to keep looking for any reasonable vehicle or opportunity to move this important bill in the near future.
Still, even with these concerns I have about this final version of the 21st Century Cures Act, I am strongly supportive of the bill and I want to commend those who worked so hard to get it this far, including Chairmen Brady and Upton and Speaker Ryan over in the House, and Chairman Alexander, Leader McConnell and his leadership team here in the Senate.
They’ve all done good work and I congratulate them on this success.
Now, Mr. President, we just have to pass the bill.
Once again, I intend to vote in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
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