Pelosi reaches deal with progressives to avert showdown over drug price bill

Pelosi reaches deal with progressives to avert showdown over drug price bill
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) reached a deal with progressive leaders on Tuesday night to avert a showdown over her signature bill to lower drug prices. 

The deal with Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse to investigate Trump 'Remain in Mexico' policy Democrats don't expect to do 2020 budget House to vote Thursday on war powers resolution after Iran attacks MORE (D-Wash.) and Mark PocanMark William PocanCongressional Progressive Caucus co-chair endorses Sanders Democrats don't expect to do 2020 budget Rep. Collins says Democrats are 'in love with terrorists,' 'mourn Soleimani' MORE (D-Wis.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will include two changes that progressives have been pushing for over the course of weeks.

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Those changes are to increase the minimum number of drugs subject to negotiation under the bill from 35 to 50 and to restore the implementation of Jayapal’s amendment, which would extend protections against drug price spikes to people on employer-sponsored health insurance plans, not just those on Medicare. 

The deal prevents a showdown on Thursday when the bill will come to the floor for a vote. Progressive leaders had been contemplating a rare full-scale rebellion against Pelosi, thinking of blocking a vote on the drug pricing bill by trying to vote down a procedural motion. 

“This is a huge win, and it shows what we can do when we stick together and all push hard for the American people,” Jayapal said in a statement. 

The deal comes after Jayapal and Pocan met with Pelosi on Tuesday afternoon, capping off months of meetings between progressives and Pelosi pushing for bolder moves.

Progressives have long been pushing for changes to the bill and frequently complained that the process was closed-off and not allowing them enough input. 

The underlying bill is one of House Democrats’ top priorities as they seek to show they are addressing kitchen table issues at the same time as impeachment. Lowering drug prices was a major Democratic campaign promise in 2018. 

The measure allows the government to negotiate lower drug prices, with the lower prices applied to people with private insurance as well as those on Medicare. 

The Congressional Budget Office found the negotiation provisions would save $456 billion over 10 years.  

The bill is expected to die in the Senate, though, where Republicans have denounced the measure as “socialist” and warned it would hinder the development of new drugs.

It is possible some much smaller drug pricing measures could still become law, but the outlook is uncertain.