House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill

House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill
© Greg Nash

A group of 10 moderate House Democrats is signaling concerns with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance McCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE’s (D-Calif.) signature legislation to lower prescription drug prices, raising further doubts about the legislation’s path forward.

Their letter to Pelosi calls for a drug pricing measure to be bipartisan and to “preserve our invaluable innovation ecosystem,” pointing to concerns that a bill could hurt drug companies’ ability to develop new drugs.

"We must garner bipartisan, bicameral support, with buy-in from a majority of Americans and stakeholders in the public and private sectors,” states the letter, sent earlier this month and obtained by The Hill. “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all, truly, must be in this together.”

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Pelosi’s H.R. 3 legislation, which would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices and cap prices based on prices paid in other countries, received only two Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019, and is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.

The letter, which was first reported by Stat, was led by Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Energy: Democrats seek to tackle climate change with import tax | Advocates say bigger deal needed to meet climate crisis | Western wildfires worsen with 80 different fires Democrats unveil polluter import tax legislation Brewing battle over tax hikes to test Democratic unity MORE (D-Calif.) and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.).

Matt Corridoni, an Auchincloss spokesman, even more explicitly raised concerns with H.R. 3.

“Jake does not think HR3 does enough for patients,” he said in a statement. “It doesn't materially lower their out of pocket costs and it prevents cures they need. This letter is starting a conversation about improving drug pricing reform.”

He pointed to alternatives like stopping patent abuse and encouraging “public-private collaboration.”

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Pelosi has made the drug pricing measure a priority, but its path was already unclear. President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE left the measure out of his American Families Plan, despite pressure from many congressional Democrats, though in his address to lawmakers last month he did call for Congress to pass drug pricing legislation this year.

Democrats could add drug pricing back into the families plan as it makes its way through Congress, and progressives like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Liberal House Democrats urge Schumer to stick to infrastructure ultimatum MORE (D-Wash.) are pushing for it.

But H.R. 3 also could be too strong to get through the Senate, where Democrats hold only 50 seats.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Ore.) has said changes could be needed, though he stressed the importance of having some form of negotiation for lower prices.

In response to the moderates’ letter, Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly said: “Polling shows strong action to lower outrageous prescription drug prices and stop Big Pharma from charging Americans three times or more than what they charge for the same medicines overseas is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.”

He said the House would pass the measure again, though did not specify a vehicle.

“That’s why House Democrats unanimously voted to pass HR3 last Congress to protect genuine innovation into new cures while stopping Big Pharma from charging Americans outrageous prices on medicines that were discovered decades ago,” he added. “Lowering drug prices is a pillar of House Democrats’ For The People agenda, and we will pass HR3 again this Congress.”

Other Democrats signing the letter are Reps. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderModerate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins Overnight Health Care: White House signals new COVID-19 strategy as delta variant spreads | McConnell urges vaccinations | Maryland says all COVID-19 deaths last month were among unvaccinated Democrats eye next stage of spending fight MORE (Ore.), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceSelect committee member thanks officers who responded Jan. 6: 'You were our last line of defense' Overnight Health Care: White House signals new COVID-19 strategy as delta variant spreads | McConnell urges vaccinations | Maryland says all COVID-19 deaths last month were among unvaccinated House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (N.Y.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphySelect committee member thanks officers who responded Jan. 6: 'You were our last line of defense' House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role We must address the declining rate of startup business launches MORE (Fla.), Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis Correa84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Californian is second Democrat to say budget package must include immigration reform Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push MORE (Calif.), Marilyn Strickland (Wash.), Frank Mrvan (Ind.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Democrats face daunting hurdles despite promising start MORE (N.J.) and Tony Cárdenas (Calif.).