On Thursday, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member respectively, of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced a bill intended to make it easier for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to hire top researchers.
The bill is part of the committee's smaller approach to the House's 21st Century Cures Act, which was passed by a wide bipartisan majority. The Senate, unlike the House, has chosen to tackle a series of smaller bills rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation.
The bill, which is known as the the FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act, would authorize the FDA to pay employees salaries more similar to what they would make in the private sector and make it easier for the FDA to participate in the Biomedical Research Service, a program primarily used by the NIH to attract new talent, and raises the number of people eligible for the program at both agencies. It also aims to cut down on barriers of communication within centers of the FDA so researchers can more easily share information on developments.
The reason the Senate has chosen to tackle these series of smaller bills rather than one comprehensive bill is the disagreement over whether there should be additional funding for the NIH and FDA. Alexander hopes to find a compromise over that issue while the committee tackles less partisan ones. So far, no compromise has been reached.