Dec 16, 2021 - Politics

Blackburn, Hagerty back legislation to combat ALS

Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty in February walking in Capital Hill.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty in February. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Tennessee Republican senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty signed on this week as cosponsors of the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies (ACT) for ALS legislation.

  • The bill already cleared the House, but some Senate Republicans were waiting to see how the legislation fared in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Support from Blackburn and Hagerty is an indication it's on track to pass.

Why it matters: ACT for ALS carves out federal funding to research cures for the progressive disease that affects cells in the brain and spinal cord.

  • The legislation follows the same formula as the Operation Warp Speed effort to develop COVID-19 vaccines by cutting red tape and providing patients quicker access to experimental therapies.

What he's saying: For Hagerty, combating the disease is personal. He tells Axios that watching his father-in-law battle ALS was "difficult and emotional for our entire family."

  • Hagerty says his aim is to raise awareness for the disease, which impacts one in 300 people.
  • "This debilitating disease that leads to a loved one's inability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe is traumatizing," he says.

What's next: With at least 62 cosponsors, ACT for ALS is on track for a Senate vote in 2022.

  • Blackburn tells Axios she believes the legislation will "bring hope to all Tennesseans who suffer from this devastating disease."

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