The Latest: Congress OKs biomedical bill, eyes adjournment

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2016 2:32 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Congress has sent President Barack Obama a bipartisan bill speeding government drug approvals and bolstering research on cancer and other diseases.

It's part of a final burst of legislation for the 114th Congress, which leaders hope to adjourn for the year by week's end.

Lawmakers are also working on bills financing federal agencies into April, mapping Pentagon programs and charting water projects.

The Senate gave final congressional approval to the biomedical measure Wednesday by 94-5.

Supporters say the bill will get new cures and treatments to market faster while augmenting research at the National Institutes of Health.

Critics call the measure a gift to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. They also say the $6.3 billion planned by the legislation isn't guaranteed and should be increased.

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11:25 a.m.

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison says he'll resign his seat in Congress if he wins election as the Democrats' party chair.

Ellison says in a statement that he'll be "all-in to meet the challenge" of rebuilding the party after Democrats' devastating defeat in the 2016 elections.

The race to lead the Democratic National Committee has emerged as a central battleground in the fight for the future of the Democratic Party.

Ellison says he decided to vacate his seat after hearing from many party activists concerned that he couldn't hold both positions. He plans to continue serving in Congress until the DNC election.

The former chairwoman, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, attracted criticism for being focused on her own re-election and insufficiently committed to the job of leading the national party.

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11:00 a.m.

Sen. Barbara Boxer has bid an emotional farewell to the chamber, recalling a career devoted to liberal causes like women's rights and the environment and her penchant for building odd-couple alliances with top Republicans like Jim Inhofe, a crusty conservative from Oklahoma.

With allies like House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi watching, Boxer recalled accomplishments like after-school programs, setting aside California wilderness lands, and last year's highway bill. That last measure was worked out with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom Boxer enjoyed a chilly relationship for two decades.

Also saying goodbye was first-term New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, defeated for re-election last month. She spoke with pride of her work on defense issues and on a recent law to combat opioid addiction.