Biden spending framework leaves out Medicare negotiating drug prices

The framework of a deal on President BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE's social spending package unveiled on Thursday does not include allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, leaving out a major Democratic priority.

A senior administration official told reporters there were not enough votes among Democrats to pass the policy.

"[President Biden] has spent countless hours over the last several weeks discussing this topic with members of Congress and trying to secure a deal," the official said. "But at the end of the day, there are not yet enough votes to get something across the line that will deliver what the American people need and expect on prescription drugs."

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The absence of drug pricing in the package is a major failure for the party on one of its key campaign pledges, and an area where leaders like Biden and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Calif.) had repeatedly vowed to take action.

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Pragmatic bipartisanship – not hard left intolerance – is Democrats' surest path back to power MORE (D-Ariz.), as well as a small handful of House Democrats, were seen as obstacles to passing the policy.

As rumors circulated about drug pricing provisions being dropped or watered down on Wednesday, vulnerable House Democrats urged their party to keep a strong provision in, noting they campaigned on it.

"All of us would love to be able to go back to our districts and say, 'Hey this is something we campaigned on that we delivered,'" said Rep. Susan WildSusan WildThe Philippines is a frontline of another cold war GOP sees inflation as winning issue 'Finally, infrastructure week!': White House celebrates T bill MORE (D-Pa.), speaking of other front-line members in competitive districts.

Now, because of objections from a small minority of Democratic lawmakers, the drug pricing provision is being left out.

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The proposal is extremely popular with voters. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll this month found that 83 percent of the public support allowing the government to negotiate drug prices.

Lawmakers had expressed hope in recent days that they would be able to find a compromise on a narrowed version of the drug pricing measure. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbyists turn to infrastructure law's implementation Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Overnight Energy & Environment — House passes giant climate, social policy bill MORE (D-Ore.) said in recent days he would not accept a "fig leaf" on drug pricing and would insist on a strong measure.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRestless progressives eye 2024 Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) has also made lowering drug prices a top priority for the package.

Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Pfizer, US strike COVID-19 pill deal CBO: Democrats' package saves about 0B on drug prices Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week MORE (D-Calif.), Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceFive takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderFive takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill House passes giant social policy and climate measure Democrats press toward vote on massive Biden bill MORE (D-Ore.) voted against a drug pricing proposal in committee last month, warning it would harm innovation from drug companies to develop new treatments. They pushed an alternative, much scaled-down measure.

The absence of drug pricing measures in Biden's new spending framework is a major victory for the pharmaceutical industry, which fought hard against the proposal with lobbying and a seven-figure ad buy, and has long been a powerful force in Washington.

Drug companies warned that regulation of their prices would harm their ability to do research and bring new treatments to market.