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 TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't 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 GrassleyAlarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season GOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting GOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision 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 WydenSenate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy Five reasons for concern about Democrats' drug price control plan 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 BraunSunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant Manchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses GOP fears boomerang as threat of government shutdown grows 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.