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Vulnerable House Democrats warn not to drop drug pricing from package

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) addresses reporters during a press conference on June 30 to discuss the INVEST in America Act which will focus on infrastructure and transportation.
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 Wild (D-Pa.) and Sharice Davids (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.  

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 Biden’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 Sinema (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 Axne (D-Iowa), Abigail Spanberger (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 Peters (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 Wyden (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.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections Abigail Spanberger Cindy Axne Colin Allred Democrats Joe Biden Kyrsten Sinema Ron Wyden Scott Peters Sharice Davids spending bill Susan Wild Vulnerable House members

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