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Democrats to put renewed focus on health care in new year

Democrats to put renewed focus on health care in new year
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday that Democrats will prioritize getting health care legislation signed into law when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week.

“When we return to Washington, our priority will be to continue a drumbeat across America to press the President and the GOP Senate to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act into law,” Pelosi wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter to members of her caucus. “And we also look forward to ending the financial unfairness of surprise billing, which has bipartisan support in the Congress and among the American people.”

Republicans have been highly critical of the House-passed drug pricing bill, which was sent to the Senate after a largely party-line vote of 230-192. The measure, which would allow the government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, is one of House Democrats’ top priorities and is expected to be touted by vulnerable Democrats up for reelection next year.

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"Americans should not have to pay more for our medicines than what Big Pharma charges for the same drugs overseas — and that is why we are proud that H.R. 3 finally gives Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices and makes those lower prices available to millions of Americans with private insurance," Pelosi wrote, adding that Democrats need to further highlight the legislation and pressure the GOP-controlled Senate to take up the measure.

President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE has instead supported a more modest bipartisan bill in the Senate to lower drug prices, legislation that does not include a provision to negotiate prices.

The focus on health care helped Democrats win back the House in the 2018 midterms, and the party sees the issue as one of its greatest strengths heading into the pivotal 2020 elections. But divisions among Democratic presidential candidates over whether to support "Medicare for All" threatens to fracture the party on health care.

Pelosi also referenced Rep. John LewisJohn LewisDemocrats worry Senate will be graveyard for Biden agenda Vernon Jordan: an American legend, and a good friend GOP lawyer tells Supreme Court curtailing Sunday voting lawful MORE's (D-Ga.) disclosure on Sunday that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“Good health is nothing to be taken for granted, and this was driven home to us this weekend when the news of John Lewis’s sad diagnosis descended upon us," Pelosi wrote. "John is an angel among us, and now the whole world is praying for him."

Pelosi went on to criticize Trump and GOP lawmakers for supporting this month's ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that said the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. She accused Republicans of attempting to unwind protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“The Trump Administration continues to firmly support the recent ruling in the 5th Circuit, which they hope will move them one step closer to obliterating every protection and benefit of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi added.