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 McConnellTop GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat Everytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (R-Iowa) for months has been calling for action on his bipartisan bill to lower drug prices with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenGraham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone Overnight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash Democrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule 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 McSallyTrump seeks to boost vulnerable GOP senator with Colorado rally Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump 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 John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff 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 PelosiCongress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff Twitter, Facebook split on manipulated Bloomberg video 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."