Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices

Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Iowa) on Tuesday announced her support for a bipartisan bill to lower drug prices, adding another GOP senator facing a competitive reelection race to the list of supporters. 

Ernst endorsed a bill from fellow Iowan Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWant a clean energy future? Look to the tax code Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda Lawmakers lay out arguments for boosting clean energy through infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.). 

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (R-Ariz.), who also faces a tough campaign this year, endorsed the bill last week, helping to add some momentum to the effort. 

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But the bill still faces tough prospects given that many Republican senators object to one of its key provisions, which would limit drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation, denouncing it as a “price control.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged last week that Senate Republicans have “internal divisions” on the bill and declined to say whether it would get a vote. 

There is also a question of whether Democrats would make a deal on one of their signature campaign issues when they are pushing for a stronger bill from House Democrats, which Republicans have widely dismissed. 

Grassley is seeking to build support for his measure among Republicans by arguing it will help them keep control of the Senate this year by filling the need to act on a top issue for voters. 

There are now roughly 12 announced GOP senators supporting the bill, and Grassley said last week he thinks he needs 25 to convince McConnell to allow a vote. 

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The White House has also announced its support for the bill, as President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE seeks a victory on health care as well. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (R-Maine), also up for reelection this year, has endorsed the bill. Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (R-N.C.), who face competitive races too, have so far declined to back it. 

“At nearly every town hall or other stop I make on my 99 County Tour, and even in discussions around the kitchen table with my family members who depend on life-saving medications, Iowans from every corner of the state have made it clear that they want to see Congress address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” Ernst said in a statement. 

Ernst on Tuesday also endorsed a more modest, GOP-only bill aimed at lowering drug prices led by Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Wyden asks White House for details on jet fuel shortage amid wildfire season MORE (R-Idaho).

Democrats said Ernst's endorsement of Grassley's bill was simply motivated by politics. 

“Senator Ernst’s eleventh hour flip-flop to pretend she’s fighting to lower health care and prescription drug costs is an act of political desperation to salvage her career in Washington,” said Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Jeremy Busch. 

Updated at 4:28 p.m.