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 WildTo boost economy and midterm outlook, Democrats must pass clean energy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Marking the Jan. 6 'chaos and carnage' Overnight Defense & National Security — Nation marks 1 year since Capitol riot MORE (D-Pa.) and Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsKansas GOP's redistricting plan targets Rep. Sharice Davids Abortion rights group endorsing 12 House Democrats Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan 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 BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better 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 SinemaThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Schumer finds unity moment in Supreme Court fight Left says they're not to blame for Biden's problems 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 AxnePlanned Parenthood endorses nearly 200 House incumbents ahead of midterms House passes bill to strengthen shipping supply chain On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on MORE (D-Iowa), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam Joining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks 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 Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size 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 WydenTop Biden official says information classification system undermines national security, public trust Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule 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."