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Grassley accuses McConnell of blocking progress on drug pricing bill

Grassley accuses McConnell of blocking progress on drug pricing bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot Capitol physician advises lawmakers against attending dinners, receptions during COVID-19 spike Congress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 MORE (Iowa) on Wednesday accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (Ky.) of blocking progress on his bill to lower drug prices, escalating tensions between two powerful GOP senators. 

Asked why more Republican senators have not signed on to his bill to lower drug prices, Grassley told reporters, “Because McConnell’s asked them not to.”

“Leadership doesn’t want it to come up,” he added.

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Grassley has been pushing a bill for months that he negotiated with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Alcohol industry ramps up pressure on Congress for tax relief MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on his committee. But many Republican senators, not just McConnell, have objected to a provision in the bill that would limit Medicare drug price hikes to the rate of inflation, something many Republicans view as a “price control.”

But President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE, who says lowering drug prices is a priority for him, supports the Grassley-Wyden bill. 

Grassley on Wednesday accused McConnell of hindering Trump’s policy priorities. 

“The president wants it,” Grassley said. “Senate majority leaders historically, if you’ve got the president of the same party, tend to be spokesmen for the administration, not against the administration.”

A McConnell spokesman did not directly respond when asked about Grassley’s comments but pointed to his comments to Politico in September, at which time he said the Senate’s path forward is still “under discussion” and the chamber is still “looking at doing something on drug pricing.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Houston will send residents checks of up to ,200 for pandemic relief MORE (D-Calif.) is pushing for a drug pricing package ahead of a May 22 deadline for renewing certain expiring health programs, which could provide an opening for the Grassley bill, but any agreement in an election year will be even tougher. 

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The Hill reported earlier this month that McConnell has said he thinks Grassley’s bill is bad policy. McConnell is also loath to bring up bills that split GOP senators. 

Grassley’s comments on Wednesday, though, escalate his public disagreement with the leader of his party in the Senate. 

Grassley said he has not spoken directly with McConnell about the bill, noting he is still working to get more Republican co-sponsors. 

He also said he hoped Trump himself would put pressure on the Senate to pass the bill, not just the White House advisers who have mostly been leading the push so far. 

“We have a White House doing everything the White House can do about this issue except for the president speaking up about it,” Grassley said. 

Grassley predicted more GOP senators would back the bill early next year when they need a popular issue such as lowering drug prices to run on in the election. 

But he said he did not think Republicans would lose the Senate even if his bill does not pass. 

“Don’t tell McConnell that,” he added.