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Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices

Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (D-Ore.) announced a bipartisan deal Tuesday on legislation to lower drug prices. 

The Finance Committee will mark up the legislation on Thursday.  

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The measure imposes a new limit on price increases in Medicare's prescription drug program, called Part D, forcing drug companies to pay money back if prices rise above inflation. The measure also caps Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs. 

Some Republican senators have objected that the limits on price increases are too close to price controls, which Republicans have long opposed on drugs. 

The vote in committee on Thursday will be closely watched to see how many Republican senators defect and vote against the measure.  

The Congressional Budget Office said the measure saves taxpayers $85 billion in Medicare over 10 years, and beneficiaries will save $27 billion in out of pocket costs. 

"A senior citizen who’s paid into the system their entire life shouldn’t have to cut pills in half to be able to make it to the next refill," Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement. "The time to act on prescription drug prices is now."

Lowering drug prices is seen as a rare area where bipartisan legislation could make it into law this year, but the package faces a tough road ahead.

If a substantial number of Republicans vote against the measure in committee on Thursday, that will detract momentum and lower the chances that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now MORE (R-Ky.) will bring the measure to the full Senate.

House Democrats are also working on a rival effort to lower drug pricing, which Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE's (D-Calif.) office said would be unveiled in September. That effort, for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, will be hard for Republicans to support, though Pelosi's office hopes that if President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE endorses the bill, it will boost GOP support in Congress.

Whether Trump, who has railed against high drug prices, endorses the Senate deal is another key factor. Trump's support could help ease the path among GOP senators with concerns.

Updated 11:10 a.m.