Johnson Criticizes Partisan Blocking of Bill for Terminally Ill Patients

WASHINGTON  A bill to provide terminally ill patients a chance to try to save their lives — a bill that has 42 cosponsors in the Senate — was blocked Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act in May 2016. The bill ensures that terminally ill patients, their doctors, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to try investigational treatments when no alternatives exist.

Johnson had this to say after his bill was blocked:

“It is beyond disappointing that Senator Reid would ignore the pleas of those with terminal illnesses to score a political point,” said Johnson. “Matt Bellina, a retired Navy fighter pilot and soon-to-be dad who suffers from ALS, and others with terminal illnesses just want the right to try to save their own lives.

“We were all sent to Washington to make things better for our constituents. Patients with terminal diseases, like other Americans, want the chance to live to see their children’s graduations, walk their daughters down the aisle, play with their grandchildren, and grow old with their spouses. They ought to have a right to access treatments that have been proven safe and could potentially save their lives. They should have the right to hope.  I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure this right is recognized and respected.”

VIDEO: Watch Chairman Johnson’s floor speech here.

Right to try laws have been passed in 32 states with 97.4 percent bipartisan support. Democrat Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s right to try legislation just yesterday.

Chairman Johnson has held two hearings on his Trickett Wendler Right to Try legislation.

The bill currently has 42 cosponsors:

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), John Boozman (R-Ark.), David Vitter (R-La.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)


Sen. Reid has consistently placed partisan politics above the well-being of the American people. Three key pieces of Johnson’s legislation have been objected to by Sen. Reid on the Senate floor:

S. 579, The Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2015 was blocked by Sen. Reid in December 2015, despite having five Democratic cosponsors. The bill would have required inspector general findings to be publicly posted. The measure that stemmed from the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah Wis., where the inspector general investigated allegations of overprescription but did not publicly release the findings.

In March 2016, Sen. Reid objected to an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act because it was sponsored by Sen. Johnson. Sen. Reid said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate, for example, one of the amendments he chose is a senator running for re-election.”

In July 2016 Sen. Reid blocked the bipartisan S. 2127, the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2015, which would have increased discipline for federal supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. Sen. Johnson, who sponsored the bill with full bipartisan support from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, sought unanimous consent from the full Senate, only to see Sen. Reid object and halt the bill’s progress.

Chairman Johnson’s work on Right to Try:

Feb. 18, 2016: Chairman Johnson’s letter to the FDA can be found here.

Feb. 25, 2016: Chairman Johnson held a hearing on connecting patients to new and potential life saving treatments.

Feb. 25, 2016: Chairman Johnson expressed his support for right to try.

March 16, 2016: Letter from Sens. Johnson, Carper, Donnelly and Coats to the FDA on can be found here.

April 26, 2016: Chairman Johnson’s statement on an FDA panel not approving eteplirsen can be found here.

May 10, 2016: Chairman Johnson introduced the Trickett Wendler Right To Try Act.

May 20, 2016: Chairman Johnson’s and Sen. Coats’ letter to the FDA can be found here.

June 16, 2016: Chairman Johnson advocates for right to try legislation at a Capitol Hill rally.

Sept. 16, 2016: Chairman Johnson’s and Sen. Alexander’s letter to the FDA can be found here.

Sept. 19, 2016: Chairman Johnson letter to FDA Commissioner Califf expressing disappointment at his refusal to testify at a right to try hearing.

Sept. 19, 2016Johnson applauds an FDA decision to approve eteplirsen to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Sept. 22, 2016: Chairman Johnson held a hearing on right to try.