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House Dem chairmen to meet with progressives amid drug pricing divisions

House Dem chairmen to meet with progressives amid drug pricing divisions
© Greg Nash

Two key House Democratic committee chairmen will meet with progressive House Democrats next week amid divisions in the party over how to craft their signature legislation to lower drug prices, according to House Democratic aides.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-N.J.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOvernight Health Care: Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices | Sturgis rally blamed for COVID-19 spread in Minnesota | Stanford faculty condemn Scott Atlas Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households MORE (D-Mass.) will meet with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus next week to discuss legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Lawmakers in the Progressive Caucus have been pushing for what they view as a bill that is tougher on drug companies, from Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line MORE (D-Texas), which would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if it refused to negotiate the price with the government.

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But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE’s (D-Calif.) office is working on a competing plan that would use an outside arbitrator to set the price if negotiations fell through, a system that some progressives view as too weak.

The meeting could allow the powerful chairmen to discuss the differences of opinion on drafting the legislation with the progressive lawmakers.

A House Democratic aide said the chairmen would not be presenting a plan at the meeting and instead would be listening to gather input from lawmakers about how to craft legislation for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Lowering drug prices is one of House Democrats’ top priorities, one that Pelosi frequently touts as part of the party’s focus on kitchen table issues. But Democrats have yet to unveil their signature legislation on the topic, leading some progressives to grow impatient about the pace of action on a core priority.

Complicating the situation, Pelosi’s office is also in talks with the White House about lowering drug prices, something that some progressives also view with skepticism.

Pelosi expressed optimism about reaching a deal with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE on lowering drug prices in an interview with Time magazine on Tuesday.

“In our conversations, [at a] staff level, and my conversations with him I think we can find a path do that,” Pelosi said.