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 GrassleyWe've lost sight of the real scandal Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel State Dept sent explosive-detection dogs to Jordan despite evidence of mistreatment: report 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. 

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Grassley has been in negotiations for months with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenInterior gains new watchdog On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum 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 Alexander The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Liberal group urges Senate panel to vote against Scalia as Labor secretary Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns 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.