Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators

Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators
© Greg Nash

Two top advisers to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE on Wednesday discussed with GOP senators the need for Republicans to lower drug prices and act on health care costs ahead of the election, according to people familiar with the meeting. 

The discussion came at a retreat for GOP senators on Wednesday, where Trump’s campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE and adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump leans on businesses in coronavirus response Trump speaks with network service providers on coronavirus response Stockpile of US-manufactured ventilators sold overseas: report MORE spoke. 

Kushner made a favorable mention of Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill Democrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (R-Iowa) and his work on drug prices, according to a source familiar with the meeting. The White House is supporting a bill from Grassley and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats press Mnuchin to defend T coronavirus stimulus IG Hillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike Trump says election proposals in coronavirus stimulus bill would hurt Republican chances MORE (D-Ore.) to lower drug prices, but many GOP senators have pushed back on that measure as well, warning it comes too close to “price controls.”

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Much of the discussion was more general and focused on the need to act from an electoral perspective, the sources said. 

“Read the polls, for the American people it's drug costs and price of health care overall,” Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Energy: Democratic lawmakers seek emissions reductions in airline bailout | House Dems warn Trump against oil industry bailout | GOP senators ask Saudis to stabilize oil market GOP senators ask Saudis to stabilize oil market MORE (R-La.) told The Hill when asked about the meeting. 

Asked about Parscale and Kushner, Cassidy said, “They're looking at the same polling data that we're looking at.”

The Washington Examiner was first to report the focus on health care at the retreat. 

“I was glad it was brought up there, with the White House, with Jared Kushner and Parscale weighing in,” Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunDemocrats, Trump set to battle over implementing T relief bill Senate GOP looking at ,200 in coronavirus cash payments GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package MORE (R-Ind.) said of the need to lower health care costs. “They seemed favorable towards our needing to do something rather than be mum on the subject.”

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Republicans have been shifting away from a focus on ObamaCare as the law gains in popularity and its polling rises after the party’s failed repeal attempt in 2017.

The GOP is now focused on attacking Democrats' "Medicare for All" plans and bipartisan efforts to lower the cost of health care. 

Grassley told The Hill that some of the comments from senators in the meeting reflected that shift.

“We aren't talking enough about health care and that repeal and replace doesn’t work anymore, you better start talking about lowering prices,” he said. 

However, those bipartisan efforts have run into intra-party splits among Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn't have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) said earlier this month that Republicans have “internal divisions” on Grassley’s bill and said it is too soon to know if it would get a vote. 

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A Politico-Harvard poll this month found 80 percent of the public ranked lowering the cost of health care as “extremely” or “very” important, with the bipartisan support of 89 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans. 

Democrats, meanwhile, see health care as their winning issue in the campaign, after they won back the House in 2018 by highlighting GOP ObamaCare repeal efforts that would weaken pre-existing condition protections. 

House Democrats are touting their own drug pricing bill, which is even stronger than the Grassley-Wyden bill, but that Republicans argue will harm the development of new treatments. 

Grassley argues his bill is the only one that can appeal to both parties. 

“My bill is the only bipartisan bill that can get through Congress,” he said.