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 ErnstWill the next coronavirus relief package leave essential workers behind? Hillicon Valley: Facebook bans ads from pro-Trump PAC | Uber reports big drop in revenue | US offers M reward for election interference info Senate passes legislation to ban TikTok on federal devices 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 GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (D-Ore.). 

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Hillicon Valley: Facebook bans ads from pro-Trump PAC | Uber reports big drop in revenue | US offers M reward for election interference info 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 McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal 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 TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE seeks a victory on health care as well. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Maine), also up for reelection this year, has endorsed the bill. Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The US military has options against China MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  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 CrapoTop GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard 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.