Today on the Hill: Senate Approves FDA User Fees, Dozens of Nominations Before August Recess

August 4, 2017

After reaching an agreement to pass key health care legislation and approve dozens of President Trump’s nominations, the Senate has adjourned for August recess — trimming a week from their previously-extended summer work period. The Senate passed sweeping legislation (H.R.2430) yesterday to renew and enhance the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) drug, medical-device, biosimilar, and generic-drug user-fee provisions. The Senate also passed an unrelated pair of pharmaceutical-related bills: (1) a right-to-try bill (S. 204), which provides terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs and treatments outside of clinical trials, and (2) a bipartisan opioids bill (S. 581) that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop standards for hospitals and physicians to denote a patient’s history of opioid addiction in medical records.

Senators also confirmed nearly 70 of President Trump’s nominees by unanimous consent — allowing lawmakers to skip over a marathon of votes. The deal was a result of days of negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). Democrats have been drawing out confirmation of Trump's nominees for months, citing the GOP’s partisan effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but pledged that they would be more cooperative once that legislation failed.

While senators have left town until after Labor Day, the upper chamber will meet in “pro-forma” sessions every few days during the recess. The nine pro-forma sessions on the Senate calendar will block President Trump from being able to make recess appointments over the break. The current deal comes after Trump publicly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sparking speculation that he would fire the former senator and try to name his successor while Congress was out of town.

The House has been out of session since last week. Both chambers are schedule to return to Washington on Tuesday, September 5.