Grassley: Deal to lower drug prices moving forward 'very soon'

Grassley: Deal to lower drug prices moving forward 'very soon'

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse MORE (R-Iowa) said Thursday that he plans to advance a bipartisan deal to lower drug prices “very soon.”

“While the final details are still being negotiated, we’re on track to report a bill out of committee very soon,” Grassley said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Grassley has been in negotiations for months with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report Democratic senators introduce bill to block funding for border wall live stream Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices MORE (Ore.), the panel’s top Democrat, and the pair are close to a deal, though there are still questions as to whether objections from other Republican senators on the committee could derail it. 

Several GOP senators are concerned that the agreement is coming too close to price controls on drugs, which Republicans traditionally oppose. 

There is still a question of how many GOP senators Grassley is willing to lose. But the statement Thursday indicates he is eager to push forward. 

A markup in committee could come as soon as next week or the week after, although lawmakers are still waiting for analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which could prove pivotal in whether some lawmakers sign off on the agreement. 

The major point of GOP concern is a provision pushed by Wyden that would require drug companies to pay money back to Medicare’s prescription drug program, called Part D, if their prices rise faster than inflation, effectively putting a restraint on price increases in Medicare. 

Grassley on Wednesday defended the idea, saying it is similar to how Medicaid already works, and downplayed the concerns from other GOP senators. 

“If we do anything, there's plenty of precedent for it in Medicaid as an example, so we aren't doing anything new,” Grassley told reporters when asked about departing from GOP orthodoxy. 

Asked about GOP objections, Grassley responded: “I've heard some questions raised, but I haven't heard objection.”

“Because quite frankly you can't object to something that we don't have spelled out in statutory language, and if we had it in statutory language you couldn't react to it much until you get a CBO score,” he added. 

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies MORE (R-Tenn.) is pushing to vote on his own health care package, which could be combined with the drug pricing package if it is ready, before the end of July.  

But the clock is ticking on getting something done before lawmakers leave Washington for the August recess, a tough timeline to meet, especially with disagreements among GOP senators.