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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 PelosiNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Sunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home It's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda 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 JayapalNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing Hillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over 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 DoggettBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states 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.”