US Politics and Policy Updates
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about US politics and policy news.
Joe Biden’s hopes of enacting legislation that would enable the U.S. government to negotiate lower drug prices for the elderly were dealt a blow after the measure failed to advance Wednesday in a committee vote.
Although the overwhelming majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill supporting the legislation, three moderate members of the president’s party in the House’s energy and trade committee opposed it along with the Republicans from the panel – enough to scrap the bill.
The lack of progress in the provision is a significant victory for pharmaceutical companies, which have long opposed congressional efforts to get Medicare, the government’s health program for elderly Americans, to negotiate lower drug costs.
It could also hamper Democratic efforts in Congress to pay for Biden $ 3.5 tons of social spending and climate change bill, as the prescription drug reduction plan is expected to generate billions of dollars in government savings.
However, the measure may still appear in different forms during later stages of the negotiation. The Senate Democrats are drafting their own legislation to lower the medicine prices for the elderly, and there are numerous talks with the White House ahead.
The decision by Scott Peters of California, Kathleen Rice of New York and Kurt Schrader of Oregon to put the proposal on drug prices emphasizes the growing power and influence of moderate Democrats in the formation of legislation, which is causing headaches for the party’s congressional leaders and the Biden administration.
Debra DeShong, executive vice president for public affairs at the pharmaceutical company lobby PhRMA, said the discussions in the House had raised major concerns about the Democratic plan that “ignored” leaders in the chamber.
“It should be a strong sign for the home’s leadership that there is broad support for reducing costs for patients without sacrificing access to new drugs and treatments,” she said. “We must put patients first by pursuing common sense, dual solutions that will reduce costs out of pocket while maintaining access and future innovation.”
The battle for drug prices comes as US drugmakers expect rebuild their public reputation by providing life-saving Covid-19 vaccines after years of political criticism over the U.S. opioid epidemic.
The Biden administration predicts that its reforms could yield half a billion dollars in savings over a decade. People who use expensive drugs for cancer and other life-threatening diseases could see their annual expenses drop by thousands of dollars, the White House said last month.
Henry Connelly, communications director of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said on Twitter that the poll “consistently shows tremendous dual support” for the plan, “including an overwhelming majority of Republicans and independents fed up with Big Pharma asking Americans so much more. than they ask. for the same medicine overseas ”.
Connelly said the reduction in drug costs would remain a “cornerstone” of the Democrats’ economic agenda.
But Bernie Sanders, the left-wing senator from Vermont, was appalled. ‘The pharmaceutical industry has spent more than $ 4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years. That is why we pay the highest prices on earth for prescription drugs. Enough is enough. “Democrats must have the courage to defeat their greed,” he wrote on Twitter.
Every Monday and Friday, Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce discuss the biggest themes at the intersection of money and power in American politics. Sign up for the newsletter here