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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 PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) on her sweeping bill to lower drug prices.

Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wis.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Trump, attorneys step up efforts to reverse election's outcome 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-CortezTrump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year 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 WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere 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 DingellGM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards Ex-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results McEnany disputes any Trump 'advocacy' with invite to Michigan lawmakers 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.”