Johnson Corrects the Record in Letter to Minority Leader Reid After Right to Try Bill is Blocked

WASHINGTON  Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday in order to correct the record on inaccurate statements by Sen. Reid on the Senate floor Wednesday. Sen. Reid blocked Johnson’s Trickett Wendler Right To Try Act that would help terminally ill patients.

The bill would ensure that terminally ill patients, their doctors and pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to try investigational treatments when no alternatives are available.

The letter can be found here and below:

September 29, 2016

The Honorable Harry Reid

Minority Leader

U.S. Senate

522 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Minority Leader Reid:

Yesterday, I requested unanimous consent to call up and pass S. 2912, the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act of 2016. I am deeply disappointed that you objected to my request—delaying the passage of bipartisan legislation to give hope to terminal patients across the nation. I am writing to set the record straight about several issues you raised in your objection. 

First, you stated that “we’ve asked for there to be a hearing on” S. 2912, suggesting there have been none held in the Senate.  That is not accurate. The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which I chair, has held two hearings examining the issues addressed by this legislation. On February 25, 2016, my Committee held a hearing to examine how to connect patients with new and potentially lifesaving treatments, during which witnesses discussed right to try laws. Additionally, just last week, on September 22nd, my Committee held a second hearing to specifically examine my legislation, featuring a patient advocate, state lawmakers, a physician, and a biopharmaceutical entrepreneur. We also heard testimony from Dr. Peter Lurie, the Associate Commissioner for Public Health Strategy and Analysis at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Second, you described S. 2912 as partisan, saying that Republican colleagues support it “but not Democrats.” Yet forty-two Senators have joined me in co-sponsoring the legislation, including Democratic Senators Manchin and Donnelly. At the state level, right to try laws have passed on overwhelmingly bipartisan basis. As you may know, when Nevada became the 18th state to enact a right to try law last year, it did so unanimously—Democrats and Republicans all voting in favor. 

I am also troubled by comments in the press made by your staff describing this effort as “a cheap stunt.” Nothing could be further from the truth, and those patients crying out for a right to try do not see it as such. I have worked tirelessly this year to reach out to various interest groups, educate members about right to try laws, and build a coalition of support here in Congress. It is no secret that the people of Wisconsin will soon go to the polls. I assure you that whatever the result, I will return to the Senate floor in November on behalf of all those terminally ill patients who could care less about the partisan politics in Washington, and want only the right to try to save their own lives. I sincerely hope that once the partisan political season has come to an end, you will reconsider your opposition to this critically important bipartisan legislation.



Ron Johnson