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 ErnstCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment 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 GrassleyDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner Lobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions MORE (R) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike Trump says election proposals in coronavirus stimulus bill would hurt Republican chances States should plan now for November voting options MORE (D-Ore.). 

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyNew bill would withhold pay from Senate until coronavirus stimulus package passes Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried 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 McConnellThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Schumer praises choice of Defense inspector general to oversee corporate lending fund 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 TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE seeks a victory on health care as well. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine), also up for reelection this year, has endorsed the bill. Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRomney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Markets expected to plunge amid partisan squabbling MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate leaving DC until April 20 after coronavirus stimulus vote Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads 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 CrapoLobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions Stimulus empowers Treasury to rescue airlines with billion in direct assistance White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package 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.