December 4, 2012
On Thursday, November 29th, we told you that the Senate had voted to include the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, but that we still had a few steps to go to get the bill passed into law. We are happy to report that another milestone has been achieved today as the Senate has passed the National Defense Authorization Act with the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act attached. It’s not law yet – we have a few more steps to go – but the finish line is clearly in sight!
How did we get here? As many of you know, the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act was “hotlined” in the Senate in September after the House passed it. This means that the bill would pass the Senate without a floor vote unless a Senator puts a hold on the bill. Senators can issue holds for a variety of reasons and, unfortunately, one was placed on the bill. We worked closely with the bill sponsors who worked tirelessly over the last two months on a member-to-member strategy to release the hold, but were not able to get around this obstacle.
When it became clear that we needed to find another path to passage, the lead Senate sponsor, Senator Whitehouse, identified the National Defense Authorization Act as a potential vehicle for the bill. It took a lot of “behind the scenes” work, but ultimately Senate Leadership agreed to let the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act be considered as an amendment to the Defense bill. Just to give you an idea of how fluid things have been, we received the final word that the amendment was going to come up for a vote on the Senate floor approximately fifteen minutes before the vote.
So, what does this mean? Is the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act now headed to the President for signature? Senate approval of the National Defense Authorization Act is a very important milestone, but we still have some steps ahead of us. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act in May, so delegates from the House and Senate will meet to iron out the differences between the two bills. Since the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act was not in the House version of the Defense bill, it will be discussed. However, at this point, we do not have any reason to expect that there will be a problem getting the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act included in the final Defense bill. The House and Senate will each vote on the compromised version of the Defense bill, and then the final bill will be sent to the President to sign. The President has indicated that he has some concerns about the underlying Defense bill, but the general consensus is that these concerns will be ironed out and the bill, including the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, will ultimately pass