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 John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions Senators offer bill to prevent relief payments from being seized by private debt collectors 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 WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system 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 BraunGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Republicans introduce bill to create legal 'safe harbor' for gig companies during the pandemic 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.