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Grassley says Trump pushing for drug pricing action after Senate lunch

Grassley says Trump pushing for drug pricing action after Senate lunch
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE told Republican senators during a meeting on Tuesday that he still wants congressional action to lower drug prices, even though the coronavirus pandemic has sucked up oxygen, according to Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate sworn in as jurors for Trump impeachment trial GOP digs in on preserving Trump tax cuts On The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes MORE (R-Iowa). 

Trump’s comments came during a closed-door lunch with GOP senators on Capitol Hill, where Grassley, a longtime proponent of lowering drug prices, asked Trump if the issue is still on the table. 

“I said the virus comes along and takes all your attention, so my question is do you still want us to put a bill on your desk to reduce drug prices?” Grassley recounted during an interview with Iowa radio station KSCJ on Wednesday. 

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“And he talked about it for a long period of time, as he takes a long time to answer questions, but he said yes, he expected us to put a bill on [his desk],” Grassley said. 

Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is the co-sponsor of a bipartisan measure with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWhat the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Hawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Hillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution MORE (D-Ore.) to lower drug prices. 

Last year, there was gathering momentum in both parties for some action to lower drug prices, and House Democrats passed an even more sweeping bill that they said was one of their top priorities. 

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But the issue has faded amid the coronavirus pandemic. And pharmaceutical companies, who took a rhetorical beating in Washington last year, are pointing to their efforts to develop coronavirus vaccines and treatments in a bid to shore up their image. 

The chances for drug pricing action have also faded given the delay of a crucial deadline for a range of health care legislation until after the election. 

Grassley, however, argued that the economic fallout from the coronavirus makes his bill for drug affordability even more important. 

“The coronavirus pandemic lends even more urgency to our efforts to ensure lifesaving cures are affordable,” he wrote in an op-ed with Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunBiden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE (R-Ind.) earlier this month. 

Many GOP senators object to Grassley’s bill, citing a particular provision limiting drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation, which they deem a price control. 

In the House, Democrats' frequent calls for drug pricing action last year have died down. 

A handful of House progressives have pushed to include far-reaching measures to lower prices for coronavirus treatments, like banning drug companies from having exclusive rights to a drug, into the most recent Democratic stimulus package. But Democratic leadership did not include those measures.