Health Care

Grassley accuses McConnell of blocking progress on drug pricing bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) on Wednesday accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

Grassley has been pushing a bill for months that he negotiated with Sen. Ron Wyden (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 Trump, 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 Pelosi (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. 

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.

Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Ron Wyden

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