White House distances itself from Pelosi plan to lower drug prices

White House distances itself from Pelosi plan to lower drug prices
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The White House is distancing itself from Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Deal on defense bill proves elusive | Hill, Holmes offer damaging testimony | Trump vows to block Navy from ousting officer from SEALs On The Money: Trump signs short-term spending bill to avoid shutdown | Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 | California high court strikes down law targeting Trump tax returns Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel MORE’s (D-Calif.) plan to lower drug prices, emphasizing support for a bipartisan plan in the Senate instead. 

The White House has been in talks with Pelosi’s office for months on drug prices, a rare shared priority, but the effort always faced tough odds given the partisan divide and the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE

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Now the Trump administration is downplaying the chances it will endorse Pelosi’s bill, instead pointing to a somewhat more modest bill in the Senate from Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Congressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Democrats press Trump officials over drop in ObamaCare signups amid website problems Trump, senators push for drug price disclosures despite setbacks MORE (D-Ore.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee. 

“Lines of communication remain open with the Speaker’s office, but the Grassley-Wyden proposal is the most likely solution that could advance on a bipartisan basis and achieve the President’s priority of lowering drug prices even further for all Americans,” White House spokesman Judd Deere wrote in an email. 

The statement comes after White House adviser Joe Grogan made similar comments in an interview with Politico, saying he told Pelosi’s office, “I admire the ambition, but I don’t know how you’re going to get it through. It might be time to start thinking about [the Senate Finance bill].” 

Congressional Republicans have denounced Pelosi’s bill as “socialist,” whereas at least some Republicans support the Grassley-Wyden bill, though many also oppose it. 

But Pelosi’s bill is the only measure that allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices, something that Trump called for in his 2016 campaign before backing away from it once in office. That has led some Democrats to say Trump is breaking his promise if he does not support Pelosi’s bill. 

“Trump used to insist that we needed to ‘negotiate like crazy’ to lower Rx prices,” Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly tweeted after Grogan’s comments to Politico. “House Dems’ legislation is the only bill that includes negotiation. Instead of caving to Big Pharma, the Trump Admin should work with us to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act through the GOP Senate.”

Pelosi’s bill would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for up to 250 drugs per year, with the lower prices also applied to private insurers. 

The Grassley-Wyden bill does not include negotiation, and it is centered on lowering drug prices in Medicare, in contrast to Pelosi’s bill, which would also lower prices for people with private insurance. 

The Grassley-Wyden bill does require drug companies to pay money back to Medicare if their prices rise faster than inflation, though many Republicans have objected to that provision and the White House has expressed openness to taking it out.