Congress approves biomedical bill for cancer and drug abuse.
WASHINGTON — With an atypical burst of bipartisanship, the Senate shipped legislation to President Barack Obama on Wednesday lowering hurdles for government drug approvals as the 114th Congress bumped toward the end of a two-year run highlighted by upheaval and stalemate.
By ALAN FRAM and ANDREW TAYLOR
A week after the House easily approved the biomedical bill, senators passed it by a similarly overwhelming 94-5 margin. That was testament to a package that plans spending $6.3 billion over the next decade on popular efforts like cancer research and battling drug addiction.
“This is a reminder of what we can do when we look out for one another,” Obama said in a written statement that promised his signature. Referring to families that have endured losses to cancer, Alzheimer’s and drug abuse, he added, “Their heartbreak is real, and so we have a responsibility to respond with real solutions. This bill will make a big difference.”
“This is an opportunity we cannot miss, and we’re not going to miss it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate health committee.
Before adjournment, which leaders targeted for later this week, lawmakers were also tackling bills financing government agencies into late April, mapping Pentagon programs and planning water projects.
In a chamber where senators can flash barely concealed animosity, they showed their more gracious side with speeches lauding departing colleagues including Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. The Senate floor was also the stage for accolades to departing Vice President Joe Biden, who served 36 years as a Democratic senator from Delaware.
“You’ve been a real friend, you’ve been a trusted partner and it’s been an honor to serve with you,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said to Biden, who presided over the tribute.
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