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H.R. 2430: FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017

Aug 3, 2017 at 12:35 p.m. ET. On Passage of the Bill in the Senate.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 2430 (115th) in the Senate. The federal budget process occurs in two stages: appropriations, which set overall spending limits by agency or program, and authorizations, which direct how federal funds should (or should not) be used. Appropriation and authorization provisions are typically made for single fiscal years. A reauthorization bill like this one renews the authorizations of an expiring law.

Although health care is one of the most partisan political subjects, a new health care law was just signed with almost unanimous support. The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 aims to lower prescription drug prices, amid skyrocketing health insurance costs.

What the law does

The law is an amalgamation of provisions from at least eight different standalone healthcare-related bills which had been introduced earlier this year from both parties. Among its most notable provisions:

  • Reauthorizes so-called “user fees” to the Food and Drug Administration for five years. These fees are paid for by medical drug and device manufacturers with every new product application, and will account for $8 billion over the next five years, or about a quarter of the FDA’s total budget. President Trump actually wanted the FDA funded 100 percent by user fees, as a way of keeping the agency funded while slashing the taxpayer-funded portion, but that plan was rejected by Congress for now.
  • Allows certain types of hearing aids to be sold over the counter. An estimated five-sixths of Americans with hearing loss don’t get hearing aids, in large part because the devices are so expensive. The provision passed over the opposition from an unlikely but powerful source: gun rights groups, which claimed the provision could allow the FDA to regulate sound amplification devices often used by hunters. (It wouldn’t.)
  • Requires the FDA speed up approval process for many types of generic drugs. The sped-up process would be invoked if a similar medication is being sold at an “egregious” price. That could mean huge savings for consumers and taxpayers, as generic drugs usually cost about 80 to 85 percent less than their name-brand competitors.
  • The Right to Try Act was separately passed by the Senate. This would allow the terminally ill to access experimental drugs and medications prior to FDA approval, a process which can normally take years. Although that’s a separate bill, Senate lead sponsor Ron Johnson (R-WI) threatened to hold up the entire FDA Reauthorization Act — which he otherwise supported and ultimately voted for — unless his own languishing Right to Try Act received a separate vote in the Senate. It passed with unanimous consent, and now awaits a vote in the House. If enacted, it would be as standalone legislation, not as a component of the FDA Reauthorization Act.

What supporters and opponents say

Supporters argue the law will lower costs and keep the FDA in line with the changing times.

The law “is ensuring that safe and effective, life-saving treatments will continue to reach American patients, from innovative new drugs, to generic drugs, biosimilars, and medical devices,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said in a statement. “The law will support our team at FDA as they carry out the HHS mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people and continue to advance medical breakthroughs.”

Only former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill in the Senate.

Sanders believed the legislation “does nothing to lower drug prices and is a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry,” a spokesperson told Axios. He also protested the Senate’s rejecting a provision he proposed for the bill, which would have allowed Americans to more easily purchase or obtain medications from Canada, where costs are noticeably less expensive.

The last time the reauthorization of FDA fees passed passed was in 2012, and Sanders was the only Senate opposer then too.

Votes

It passed the House on July 12 by voice vote, meaning there was no significant opposition and no record of individual votes was cast. The bill was introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It then passed the Senate on August 3 by 94–1, with the aforementioned Sen. Sanders opposing, after being introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

President Donald Trump signed the current version into law on August 18. It was introduced in the House as H.R. 2430 and the Senate as S. 934, but is now designated Public Law 115–52.

Totals

All Votes R D I
Yea 99%
 
 
 
94
47
 
46
 
1
 
Nay 1%
 
 
 
1
0
 
0
 
1
 
Not Voting
 
 
 
5
5
 
0
 
0
 

Bill Passed. Simple Majority Required. Source: senate.gov.

The Yea votes represented 100% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.

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Study Guide

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You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the bill this vote was about, see here.

What was the procedure for this vote?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.

    This vote is related to a bill. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the bill, whether to change the bill before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.

    You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at EveryCRSReport.com. If you aren’t sure what the Senate was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.

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  3. How did your senators vote?
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  5. How much of the United States population is represented by the yeas?
  6. GovTrack displays the percentage of the United States population represented by the yeas on some Senate votes just under the vote totals. We do this to highlight how the people of the United States are represented in the Senate. Since each state has two senators, but state populations vary significantly, the individuals living in each state have different Senate representation. For example, California’s population of near 40 million is given the same number of senators as Wyoming’s population of about 600,000.

    Do the senators who voted yea represent a majority of the people of the United States? Does it matter?

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