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McConnell: GOP has 'internal divisions' on bill to lower drug prices

McConnell: GOP has 'internal divisions' on bill to lower drug prices
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said Senate Republicans have “internal divisions” on a bill to lower drug prices and that he does not know yet whether the measure will get a vote. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyFinance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority Yellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing MORE (R-Iowa) for months has been calling for action on his bipartisan bill to lower drug prices with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack With a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (D-Ore.), noting that it is also backed by the White House and could help vulnerable Republicans in their reelection campaigns. 

When asked whether he would bring the bill to the floor, McConnell told reporters there are “internal divisions within my party in the Senate” that must be resolved on both that bill and another health care measure aimed at protecting patients from surprise medical bills. 

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“I think everybody agrees that prescription drug prices are too high,” McConnell said. “The dilemma is how do you get there, and we have divisions within the Republican Party on that and with the Democrats on that. So, yeah, we're going to be talking about it. Whether we can all pull together and get a solution, I'm not prepared to predict today.”

Many Senate Republicans have objected to Grassley’s bill, particularly a provision that would limit drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation, something some Republicans view as a “price control.”

But Grassley is pointing to the popularity with voters of addressing high drug prices. Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed MORE (R-Ariz.), who faces a tough campaign this year, endorsed the bill on Monday, giving a boost to the effort. 

The White House also supports the bill. President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE in his State of the Union address earlier this month praised Grassley for his work on drug prices.

McConnell noted that the issue will be at the center of negotiations ahead of a May 22 deadline for renewing expiring health programs such as community health centers. Backers hope both drug pricing and surprise medical billing legislation could be attached to legislation that needs to move ahead of that deadline. 

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Another question mark is House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (D-Calif.), who is pushing for a more aggressive bill to lower drug prices by allowing the government to negotiate prices, but that measure has been widely dismissed by Republicans. 

As such, Grassley pitches his bill as a compromise. 

"I’m confident that if this bill were brought up for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly," he said on the floor Tuesday. "Let’s not miss an opportunity to deliver real progress for Americans."