Progressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices

Progressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices
© Aaron Schwartz

Progressive leaders in the House said Tuesday they are hoping to avoid a standoff with Democratic leaders following a meeting with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Why Senate Republicans should eagerly call witnesses to testify Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now MORE (D-Calif.) on her sweeping bill to lower drug prices.

Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Wis.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Wash.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), have floated the idea of rebelling against Pelosi and blocking a vote on her legislation if changes are not made to the measure.

But after a meeting with the Speaker, which followed months of tension over the bill, the progressive lawmakers struck a positive tone, even though they said the details of any agreement are still being worked out.

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"The conversation went well and I think, hopefully within a couple hours, we'll have this all resolved," Pocan told reporters as he left the Speaker's office in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.

He said he is still waiting to "see things on paper" but expressed optimism that a "number of our priorities" would move forward. He said it is unclear whether those priorities would be included in the underlying bill itself or voted on as amendments on the House floor.

But earlier, Pocan and Jayapal seemed on the verge of a showdown with Pelosi over the bill, a top priority for House Democrats that will get a floor vote on Thursday.

They have been contemplating a rebellion against leadership, in an effort to vote down the rule for the bill, effectively blocking the measure from going forward.

Some progressives said earlier on Tuesday that they would have had enough votes to block the measure if they wanted to go that route.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillary Clinton responds to backlash: 'I will do whatever I can to support our nominee' Klobuchar dismisses White House lawyer's jab about Democrats wanting to be in Iowa The Hill's 12:30 Report: Rules fight sets stage for first day of Trump trial MORE (D-N.Y.), a high-profile figure on the left, told reporters earlier in the day that she would be voting no on the bill and said she hoped the CPC would stand strong and block Pelosi's measure.

"I think we need to flex our muscle, we're the largest caucus in the Democratic caucus and I think that we should act like it," she said. "I know we have the votes to bring down the rule."

Leading progressive presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' MORE (I-Vt.) also tweeted support for the CPC’s effort to make changes.

Voting to block the bill, though, would be a stark escalation for the CPC.

It now appears that if some deal can be worked out, that move would be avoided.

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The House Rules Committee is meeting Tuesday evening to make a final decision on changes that will be allowed.

Jayapal said leaving the meeting with Pelosi that the fixes on the table are her amendment to extend limits on drug price spikes into the employer-sponsored insurance market, as well as increasing the minimum number of drugs subject to negotiation under the bill.

The underlying bill would allow the government to negotiate lower prices for a minimum of 35 drugs up to a maximum of 250 per year. Progressives have been pushing for months to increase that minimum number.

Many other House Democrats, meanwhile, have grown frustrated with progressives for threatening a major legislative accomplishment that they are hoping to tout as kitchen table-focused issue while the party is pursuing impeachment.

Republicans, meanwhile, have denounced the bill as “socialist” and say it would hinder the development of new drugs.

Rep. Susie LeeSuzanne (Susie) Kelley LeeMORE (D-Nev.) said in a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday morning that "we can't let perfect be the enemy of progress,” pushing back on progressives’ calls for changes to the legislation.

“There was a big fight in there,” Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMaking waves to protect America's waters Trump suggests LBJ is in hell: 'He's probably looking down — or looking up' 10 controversies that rocked the Trump White House in 2019 MORE (D-Mich.) said leaving the caucus meeting Tuesday morning. “I bet the rule passes in the end. Democracy is having good healthy discussions with each other.”