Grassley meets with moderate House Democrats on lowering drug prices

Grassley meets with moderate House Democrats on lowering drug prices
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Iowa) met on Wednesday with a group of moderate House Democrats to see if there is a way forward for a bipartisan approach to lowering prescription drug prices. 

The meeting took place in the office of Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Select committee member thanks officers who responded Jan. 6: 'You were our last line of defense' House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE (D-Fla.), one of the leaders of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, according to a House Democratic aide. It included some of the 10 Democratic lawmakers who had signed a letter in May signaling concerns with the sweeping drug pricing bill backed by House Democratic leaders, known as H.R. 3, and calling instead for a bipartisan approach that would preserve innovation from drug companies.  

There were a total of five House Democrats in the meeting, in addition to Grassley, the aide said.  

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Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderModerate Democrats call for 9/11-style panel to probe COVID-19 origins Overnight Health Care: White House signals new COVID-19 strategy as delta variant spreads | McConnell urges vaccinations | Maryland says all COVID-19 deaths last month were among unvaccinated Democrats eye next stage of spending fight MORE (D-Ore.), who attended the meeting, told The Hill the group was “just trying to figure out, can we move something forward?” 

Asked if the group could come up with an alternative to H.R. 3, Schrader replied, “We’re finding that out.”

Any bipartisan approach to drug pricing faces a steep uphill climb to passage, though, given that many Democratic lawmakers, including leadership, are intent on including a provision to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices, saying it is needed to get meaningful savings. Almost all Republican lawmakers oppose that idea. 

H.R. 3 received just two Republican votes when it passed the House in 2019. 

Grassley has been one of the most active Republicans pushing to lower drug prices. He reached a deal with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Ore.) in 2019 on legislation to limit drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation. But that measure did not include the ability for Medicare to negotiate lower prices. 

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A Grassley spokesman said the lawmakers discussed that 2019 bill in the meeting. "Sen. Grassley met with a group of House Democrats today to discuss his bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which he co-wrote with Sen. Wyden and advanced through the Finance Committee last Congress," said George Hartmann, the Grassley spokesman. "It was a productive discussion on a bill that could make a real difference on prescription drug costs for Americans, and Sen. Grassley is looking forward to continuing the conversation."

However, Wyden, now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is working on a revised version of the legislation that would add in some form of Medicare negotiating drug prices, which means it is not expected to get Republican support.

This post was updated at 5:18 p.m.