It's the Senate's turn to work on medical cures legislation, now that the House has overwhelmingly approved its sweeping new bill.
Aides and lobbyists don't expect a final bill until next year at the earliest, with the Senate expected to pass its own version later this year and then merge it with the House bill. And there will be many issues for lawmakers to work out — such as how much extra funding to give federal agencies for the research, development and approval of new treatments, and how to pay for it.
As chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will head up the effort's next phase. Five groups of committee members are meeting weekly to discuss what the bill should contain.
"The Senate is on a parallel track with the House and hopes to have legislation by the end of the year," a senior GOP aide said.
While partisanship has marked most healthcare discussions in Congress over the last five years, as lawmakers hotly debate Obamacare, the cures effort has brought most together in a rare bipartisan fashion.
"It's time now we as a nation got serious about curing the major diseases that are affecting this country," Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said Friday.