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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 ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results MORE (R) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Ore.). 

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' 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 McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight 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 John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE seeks a victory on health care as well. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine), also up for reelection this year, has endorsed the bill. Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerHillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection 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 CrapoMnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Shelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences 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.