Pallone commits to using ‘whatever vehicle I can’ to pass Democrats’ drug pricing bill

Bonnie Cash

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) on Tuesday said he would use “whatever vehicle I can” to pass the Democrats’ drug pricing bill, known as H.R. 3, that would allow the federal government to negotiate for decreased prices on behalf of Medicare. 

Pallone joined health advocates from Protect Our Care New Jersey in calling for Congress to move forward with H.R. 3, or the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, to reduce prescription drug prices. 

“The problem is that you have millions of Americans right now who can’t afford their medicines and at the same time drug companies are making huge profits, and it’s just not fair,” Pallone said during a press conference

The press conference comes after President Biden’s administration unveiled its $1.8 trillion American Families Plan proposal last week, which did not include the Democrats’ drug pricing measure.

Pallone, along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), responded by saying they might add measures aimed to reduce drug prices as Biden’s plan works its way through Congress. 

But such an addition could hit obstacles as Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry have come out against the Democratic bill H.R. 3, saying it would inhibit research and innovation for new drugs and treatments. 

During Tuesday’s press conference, Pallone indicated the Democrats hope to get Republican support for H.R. 3 but said GOP lawmakers won’t go for negotiated prices. 

“We’re just gonna see whatever vehicle we can,” he said. “I would like to have Republican support. It will get some. But the key to the Republicans is they don’t want negotiated prices, and so we’ll have to see what vehicle — I’m gonna use whatever vehicle I can to get this done.”

The Democratic-majority House approved H.R. 3 to decrease drug prices in 2019, but the bill did not survive in the Republican-majority Senate. But now with slight majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats believe there’s a chance for legislation to lower prices to pass. 

Pallone also spoke at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on H.R. 3 on Tuesday, calling high prescription prices “outrageous” and saying, “it is long past time that we negotiate a better deal for Americans.”

Last week, Biden called on Congress to pass drug pricing legislation “this year” during his joint address, saying “Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this body in Congress.”

“Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices,” the president added.

Tags drug pricing H.R. 3 Joe Biden Medicare prescription drug prices prescription drugs Ron Wyden

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