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Via the WSJ, the parties’ attitudes on the subject could hardly be in starker contrast:
For weeks, members and staffers of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have been trying to find common ground on the legislation. Republicans wanted to smooth the regulatory path for drug and medical device approvals, while Democrats strove to increase funding for medical research and find ways to keep drug prices in check. But in recent weeks, Democrats balked at several industry-sought measures they believed would lower the bar too much on the safety of products approved at the FDA, according to people familiar with the talks. These measures supported by Republicans would have, among other provisions, reduced FDA scrutiny of certain laboratory tests’ accuracy and of medical software.
On Thursday, Democrats on the panel confirmed they were offering their own version that would increase research funding for the National Institutes of Health and the FDA, but avoid some of the regulatory provisions. They also sought ways to cut prices of cancer, hepatitis and other expensive drugs. So now, the two parties are offering versions of an NIH funding bill that are poles apart. This strife is unusual for the HELP committee, which has been relatively bipartisan and cooperative for decades. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, for example, negotiated a rewrite of K-12 education programs last year.