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GOP senators raise concerns over potential deal to lower drug prices

GOP senators raise concerns over potential deal to lower drug prices
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Republican Senators and Trump administration officials met Tuesday morning to debate a potential deal to lower drug prices, with some attendees raising concerns about a possible agreement with Democrats.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (R-Iowa) held the meeting with GOP committee members to discuss a possible agreement that he has been negotiating for months with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the panel.

But pushback from some in the GOP may pose an obstacle to a final breakthrough.

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Their sticking point is an idea pushed by Wyden that would limit the ability of drug companies to raise prices faster than inflation in Medicare’s prescription drug program, called Part D. Drug companies would have to pay money back to Medicare if their prices rose too quickly.

Some GOP senators say that approach is akin to price controls, which are anathema to many Republicans.

“The key is the Wyden amendment,” said Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP's campaign arm releases first ad targeting Bollier in Kansas The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida National Republicans will spend to defend Kansas Senate seat MORE (R-Kan.) after leaving the meeting. “I think basically it's the first step toward government rate controls on drug prices. If people want to do that they can, but I don’t think that’s a good answer.”

“People expressed their views, both pro and con,” Roberts added.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and White House health care adviser Joe Grogan also attended the meeting.

Lowering drug prices is seen as one of the few areas for bipartisan action this year in Congress, but it remains to be seen whether the Grassley-Wyden talks will lead to something that can pass the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.

Grassley and Wyden met with each other before last week’s July 4 recess and came close to striking a deal, but a key question is how GOP senators would react to it.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), one of the most conservative lawmakers in the Senate, said Tuesday that he had “concerns,” but declined to elaborate.

“I have lots of concerns, but we had a constructive conversation,” Toomey said while leaving the meeting.

Grassley said in Iowa last week that he hoped to have a markup in committee as soon as July 17 if the deal “holds together.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) is pushing to have a full Senate vote on a health care package that could include a drug pricing deal before the end of July.

Lawmakers said they are also waiting to get feedback from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on some of the main proposals out there.

“I don’t think anybody's ready to cast any votes just yet, but we're trying to figure out what the traffic will bear and what we think we can get the votes to do,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican. “The chairman wants to get some feedback from the CBO on some of these ideas and see what some of the potential impacts would be, so there's no deal yet, but a good discussion.”

Asked what the administration’s message was, Thune said: “They'd like to see a deal. They want to see something to lower drug prices. We all do.”