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Pelosi pushes for drug pricing measure amid uncertainty from White House

Pelosi pushes for drug pricing measure amid uncertainty from White House
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiYoung Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' Hillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals 'It's still a BFD': Democrats applaud ruling upholding ObamaCare MORE (D-Calif.) is pushing for the inclusion of a measure to lower drug prices in President BidenJoe BidenChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Poll: Majority back blanket student loan forgiveness MORE's forthcoming American Families Plan, amid indications that the White House will not include it.

Advocates and Democratic lawmakers are increasingly concerned that health care measures, including lowering drug prices and expanding health coverage, are being left out of Biden's spending package, which is coming next week and is expected to include measures like paid leave and child care.

House Democrats on Thursday reintroduced their signature legislation to lower drug prices, known as H.R. 3, and Pelosi pointedly noted in a statement that including it in Biden's proposal is important for Democratic lawmakers. The measure would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices, a long-held Democratic goal.

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"Lowering health costs and prescription drug prices will be a top priority for House Democrats to be included in the American Families Plan," Pelosi said in the statement.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the White House will not include health care legislation in the Families Plan, and instead will tout the measures on a separate track.

Asked about that report, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMaya Angelou, Cherokee Nation leader among women honored on newly minted quarters White House officials won't say if US will meet July vaccine goal Biden, Putin begin high-stakes summit in Geneva MORE listed health care as a separate topic from the Families Plan, ahead of Biden's speech to Congress next week.

"I expect the president, as I noted, to talk about the American Families Plan in his joint address, as well as a number of other issues ... important to him, including health care, the need to put in place police reforms," Psaki said.

Psaki also sought to defend Biden's commitment to health care, pointing to the special sign-up period for ObamaCare that he opened.

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"He has made clear his commitment to expanding access to health care; it's why he opened a special enrollment period during this pandemic," she said.

The health care measures have exposed divisions among Democrats. In addition to the question of whether to include them in Biden's proposal, there is debate over how to spend the roughly $500 billion in savings that the drug pricing measure is estimated to generate.

Progressives including Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Democratic senators press PhRMA over COVID-19 lobbying efforts  MORE (I-Vt.) are pushing to lower the eligibility age for Medicare, and to expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision benefits.

Pelosi, though, pointed to spending the savings on making permanent an increase in ObamaCare subsidies that help people afford premiums.

"Families cannot afford to lose the enhanced [Affordable Care Act] benefit passed in the American Rescue Plan, and we must make it permanent," she said Thursday.

It is possible that House Democrats will add back in the drug pricing measure and other health provisions even if the White House leaves them out of the initial package.

"The sense I am getting from both sides of the Hill is Biden will have to tell them to their faces to not do health care," said an advocacy group source.