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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic For city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now 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 GrassleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Grassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog MORE (R-Iowa) for months has been calling for action on his bipartisan bill to lower drug prices with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 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 McSallyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA Pence names new press secretary 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 TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Trump asserts his power over Republicans 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."