Progressive House Dems meet with Pelosi staffer to push for tough drug pricing bill

House Democratic members of the Progressive Caucus met with a top aide to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Negotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday and pushed for a controversial, progressive bill to lower drug prices.

The meeting with Wendell Primus, the health care adviser to Pelosi, comes as House Democrats craft legislation on lowering drug prices, one of their signature priorities.

The Progressive Caucus members delivered a message that the bill needs to be strong and have “teeth,” according to Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalMatt Stoller: Big tech House grilling the most important hearing on corporate power since the 1930s Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs MORE (D-Wash.), the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, who was at the meeting.

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The message from the progressive wing of the party comes as Pelosi’s office is in talks with the White House to try to find a deal on drug pricing, though Pelosi’s office has stressed that the talks are not formal “negotiations.”

The Progressive Caucus members are pushing for a far-reaching bill from Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettOvernight Health Care: Fauci says family has faced threats | Moderna to charge to a dose for its vaccine | NYC adding checkpoints to enforce quarantine GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals Gilead sets price for five-day coronavirus treatment at ,120 MORE (D-Texas.).

“We wanted to make it very clear that it needs to be something bold that has teeth in it and I think that’s what Representative Doggett's bill has in it,” Jayapal told reporters. “And so we reaffirmed our support for that.”

Asked if Primus expressed openness to Doggett’s bill, Jayapal said “it’s hard to tell.”

“He said he's trying to work on something that could get the whole caucus there,” Jayapal said.

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“Bold, tough prescription drug negotiation legislation is what the American people want, and we’re looking at every option to maximize the leverage needed to drive down prescription drug prices," said Henry Connelly, a Pelosi spokesman, when asked about the meeting. 

The Doggett bill has 122 cosponsors, a sizable number but one that is about half of the entire Democratic caucus.

Doggett’s bill would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but an even more controversial part is a provision that allows the government to break a drug company’s monopoly on a drug if the company refuses to negotiate with the government, and allow other companies to produce the drug instead.

Another idea Democrats are discussing is to use an arbitrator to help set the price of a drug as part of Medicare negotiating the price. But progressives are pushing for Doggett’s bill rather than the arbitration idea.

Asked if she had concerns that Pelosi’s office would water down the drug pricing bill in a bid to get the White House’s support, Jayapal said “I always have concerns, that's my job....but at this point that's not what [Primus is] saying.”

“Wendell Primus was very clear that they are not negotiating with the White House,” Jayapal said. “I'm going to take him at his word on that. They are working on a proposal for us and perhaps....they're keeping some of the folks in the White House apprised of that.”