Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Senator Lamar Alexander Cures Floor Speech

Posted on December 6, 2016

Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak about the fires in Tennessee, but I would observe beforehand that by tomorrow we'll be voting on the 21st Century Cures and the mental health bill. I have a little different view of it than the senator from Vermont.

For example, using the money in the prevention fund, which was a part of the Affordable Care Act, pretty good use of it, I would say, is to support the president's Precision Medicine Initiative and to support the vice president's Cancer Moonshot and to support the BRAIN Initiative at the National Institutes of Health.

Thus, what we do in the bill, $1.4 billion for precision medicine, $1.8 billion for Cancer Moonshot, $1.5 billion for the BRAIN Initiative. We're interested in reducing grief and reducing spending in this country, accelerating the arrival of medicines that will identify Alzheimer's before its symptoms and other medicines that will retard the progression of Alzheimer's would be a magnificent thing to do. It would be a miracle for many families.

And it's not just a miracle. It's something that Dr. Francis Collins, a renowned scientist who is head of the National Institutes of Health, the national institutes of hope is what he calls it, predicts is what will happen in the next ten years. Along with a vaccine for Zika, along with a vaccine for HIV-AIDS, along with a vaccine for the universal flu which killed 35,000 people last year, along with the advances in regenerative medicine, which would put a physician like our former Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist of Nashville out of business. Bill Frist was at one time a heart transplant surgeon. He transplanted more hearts than anybody in the world, I think, or nearly anybody. But Dr. Collins believes that with advances in using our own adult cells, we will restore hearts. We won't have to transplant them. 

We may be able to restore eyesight. These are the kind of miracles that this legislation will encourage that can affect virtually every American family, and the other part of the legislation equally important to the money is that it would make reforms in the Food and Drug Administration and in the National Institutes of Health that will move those treatments and cures through the regulatory and investment process more rapidly at lower costs into the medicine cabinets, into the doctor's office where they can help virtually every family in this country.

That's why 85 senators yesterday voted to end debate on this bill, and I suspect more will vote tomorrow to send it to the president. That's why the House of Representatives, 392 of them, voted for this bill. Only six democratic members of the House of Representatives voted against it. They're not persuaded there is some evil force in there. They like what they see.

And not only them, the President of the United States says this is an opportunity we just can't miss, and the Vice President of the United States, talking about his Cancer Moonshot, says this is a big and important step forward, and the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, turned a couple of somersaults figuring out the way to do the funding on this because it's an important part of his own agenda for our nation's health care future, and I've heard the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator McConnell, say in private meetings and in public that this is the most important piece of legislation we'll pass this year. Add to it the mental health legislation that Senator Cassidy and Senator Murphy and Senator Cornyn worked so hard on over here, add that to it, and we get something that we can be very proud of, which is why it received such a big vote yesterday.

So I want the American people to know that's what we're doing. I think that's what they want us to do.

Now, we could do something in a partisan way, we could do something by executive order or we could take two years as we literally did in this bill, two years, multiple hearings, multiple consultations, many differences of opinions. All of them resolved, though, in a bipartisan way and produce a lasting result.

It won't be like Obamacare where the next day one party's trying to repeal it and the next party's defending it. It won't be like some other partisan legislation. This will last. Nobody's going to be trying to repeal it because almost everybody voted for it. And the money will come just as the legislation says year after year. So I'm proud of the Senate and I'm happy for the American people and I look forward to tomorrow.