Vulnerable House Democrats warn not to drop drug pricing from package

Vulnerable House Democrats warn not to drop drug pricing from package
© Greg Nash

Vulnerable House Democrats are urging leadership not to drop or water down a provision to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices as talks on the issue enter the final stretch.

On a call with reporters, Reps. Susan WildSusan WildThe Philippines is a frontline of another cold war GOP sees inflation as winning issue 'Finally, infrastructure week!': White House celebrates T bill MORE (D-Pa.) and Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsAbortion rights group endorsing 12 House Democrats Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan Vulnerable House Democrats warn not to drop drug pricing from package MORE (D-Kan.), both from competitive 2022 districts, noted that Democrats have made lowering drug prices one of the centerpieces of their campaigns.

"All of us would love to be able to go back to our districts and say, 'Hey this is something we campaigned on that we delivered," Wild said on a call organized by the group Protect Our Care, speaking about "front-line" members from competitive districts.  

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Democratic strategists note that the issue is extremely popular with voters. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll this month found 83 percent of the public supports allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices.   

The drug pricing provisions are one of the final issues being negotiated as lawmakers seek to close in on a deal on President BidenJoe BidenGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE's Build Back Better package. 

Advocates have been alarmed in recent days that the provisions could be watered down significantly as leaders seek to win over Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPragmatic bipartisanship – not hard left intolerance – is Democrats' surest path back to power With extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Ariz.), who has been on a major question mark on the issue.

Davids pointed to a recent op-ed from herself and other front-line lawmakers, including Reps. Colin Allred (D-Texas), Cindy AxneCindy AxneTop House Democratic group launches six-figure ad campaign to sell infrastructure package State Democrat group teams up with federal lawmakers to elect down-ballot candidates Conservative group targeting House Democrats over SALT positions MORE (D-Iowa), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerSunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Spanberger calls on Biden to appoint supply chain czar MORE (D-Va.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.).  

A handful of moderate House Democrats also previously voted "no" on the sweeping House drug pricing legislation. One of those lawmakers, Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Pfizer, US strike COVID-19 pill deal CBO: Democrats' package saves about 0B on drug prices Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week MORE (D-Calif.), told reporters on Tuesday that he still had not seen language that he could support. 

Peters has been pushing alternative legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices only in much narrower instances, for older drugs that no longer have patent protection. He said he is opposed to negotiation provisions broader than that over fears it would harm innovation from drug companies to develop new treatments.  

But Wild said Wednesday that the provisions need to be "vibrant" and "full throated."

"Don't just hand us some little token version of it," she said.  

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbyists turn to infrastructure law's implementation Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Overnight Energy & Environment — House passes giant climate, social policy bill MORE (D-Ore.), who is helping lead the talks, said on Tuesday that the drug price negotiation provisions could not be only a "fig leaf." 

"In 2018 it was part of my platform to focus on this and help make this happen," Davids said. "Right now we literally are in the eleventh hour."