Thursday: FDA passes today, student loans look doubtful

The Senate approved a handful of amendments by unanimous consent on Wednesday (see below), and will hold about a dozen votes before coming to the final bill. The legislation, S. 3187, is generally non-controversial, and would reauthorize and extend a user-fee program that drug and medical device industry groups support as a way of speeding up the FDA approval process.

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Once the bill is passed, the Senate will turn to a much more contentious bill, S. 2343, the Stop Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act. The Democratic bill extends low interest rates on new, federally backed student loans for another year, and pays for it by subjecting more high-earners' income to the payroll tax.

As part of a deal announced Wednesday, Republicans won the right to have a vote on their alternative plan, which would terminate a preventive health fund created in 2010.

But approval of both the GOP alternative and the Democratic bill will need 60 votes to pass. Because each party seems to genuinely hate the other's bill, the votes might well be a setup for partisan finger-pointing once both fail, which will at least give the parties something to talk about over the long Memorial Day weekend.

The Senate should also approve a 60-day extension of the National Flood Insurance Program at some point today. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he would agree to tackle a longer-term reform bill once the Senate returns from its Memorial Day week off.

Also up today, a likely vote on a bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for 60 days, also part of Wednesday's announcement.

In a unanimous-consent vote Wednesday, the Senate approved H.R. 4097, the John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act, and the following six amendments to the FDA bill, from:

• Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill Senate Democrat calls on Mexico to step up search for missing students Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override MORE (D-Md.), to ensure that adequate information is disseminated to healthcare providers and payers about the potential benefits and risks of medical products on all patient populations, particularly underrepresented sub-populations, including racial subgroups;

• Cardin, to require the commissioner of Food and Drugs to report to Congress on issues with respect to small businesses;

• Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyMcConnell blames dysfunction on Dems Four states sue to stop internet transition Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits MORE (R-Iowa), to provide employee protections for the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service Act;

• Grassley, to provide deadlines for the issuance of certain regulations and to require a GAO report on the implementation of the clinical trial registration and reporting requirements under the Public Health Service Act;

• Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (D-W.Va.), to reclassify the pain reliever hydrocodone under the Controlled Substances Act; and

• Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override Overnight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas MORE (D-R.I.), to make effective the proposed rule of the Food and Drug Administration relating to sunscreen drug products.