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 McConnellMcGrath reshuffles campaign in home stretch to Senate election GOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Chris Wallace rips both parties for coronavirus package impasse: 'Pox on both their houses' 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 GrassleyGOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal COVID-19 relief talks look dead until September  MORE (R-Iowa) for months has been calling for action on his bipartisan bill to lower drug prices with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Markets rise as economy struggles; 'It does not make sense' Election security advocates see strong ally in Harris 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: GOP senators who don't embrace him will 'lose their elections' McConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate 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 TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days 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 exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Pelosi calls Trump attacks on mail-in voting a 'domestic assault on our Constitution' 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."