Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (DN.J.) made multiple calls to centrists to support the language of drug prices and said it was important to negotiate a final package with the Senate.
Pallone also stressed that Democrats agreed to support the same drug pricing provision when it first came to the vote in 2019. Peters previously told POLITICO that he supported the bill because he knew it would not pass the Senate and just wanted to push the debate on the issue.
The temperate stance could hinder Democrats’ push to reform a number of federal health programs under their $ 3.5 trillion bill, as drug pricing over a decade is forecasted to save up to $ 700 billion in savings for others health policy priorities.
The vote took place on the same day that spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team asked committee chairs to fill in and submit their parts of the domestic spending law.
Pelosi spokesman Henry Connelly reiterated that a drug cost reduction provision “will remain a cornerstone of the Build Back Better Act as work between the House, Senate and White House continues on the final bill.”
Progressive interest groups pledged to increase the pressure on the objectors. The pharmaceutical industry’s major trading group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, said the vote “should send a strong signal to the House leadership that there is widespread support for lowering costs for patients without access to new medicines and treatments to sacrifice”.
Now the Democrats are looking for alternative ways to save the policy, including passing it on through the Ways and Means Committee, which shares responsibility for health policy. The wording could also be inserted by the Committee on the Rules of Procedure before the plenary debate on the social expenditure package.
The moderates have argued that the drug pricing plan – which would allow Medicare to lower the prices of hundreds of drugs – would hurt innovation in the pharmaceutical industry and stand little chance of getting through the Senate. Instead, they pushed for a tighter plan that would have limited the number of drugs negotiated.
Schrader confirmed to reporters on Wednesday morning that he was still no, saying that the committee’s leadership had not “worked” as much on him as they did on the other objectors. During the markup, he argued that the proposal “kills jobs and innovation” and has no chance of passing the evenly divided Senate.
Peters railed against the leadership-backed plan to impose “government-dictated prices” on drugs, warning that it would “spoil” investment in new drug development.
Republicans also jumped on the internal divisions of the Democrats, quoting them repeatedly in the committee debate to argue against drug price negotiations.
But the Centrists’ alternative plan is a non-starter with progressives who view the leadership-backed plan as critical to both fulfilling the party’s promise to cut healthcare costs and paying for priorities like expanding Medicare benefits and to add Medicaid in red states that have t expanded their programs and permanently increased subsidies for Obamacare.
The top Democrats in the House of Representatives stressed that the fight was not over yet.
The Ways and Means Committee is expected to endorse an identical drug pricing language late Wednesday afternoon. During the week, the panel’s Democrats rejected several Republican amendments to the directive, including one that would require the HHS secretary to postpone implementation until he can confirm the directive would not result in jobs in the US Pharmaceutical manufacturing go to China.
But even if this hurdle is taken by the committee, politics in the House of Representatives and the Senate face an uncertain future.
A total of five House Democrats are behind Peters’ alternative proposal, with MPs Lou Correa (D-Calif.) And Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) Joining the three energy and trade objectors.
“This is incredibly hard-fought and we are still a long way from the end,” said MP Peter Welch (D-Vt.), One of the leading proponents of the reform efforts, to POLITICO.
The Senate Center Democrats have voiced similar criticism of the House of Representatives governance plan. And the pharmaceutical industry, which had lobbied and advertised the efforts for weeks, stepped up its efforts – launching a seven-digit spate of print and TV advertising on Wednesday arguing that the law is increasing its ability to fight future pandemics would endanger.
Even proponents of Medicare price negotiations in the upper chamber recognize the tough opportunities.
“I know the power that pharmaceutical companies have. I see it every day in the halls of Congress, ”Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Mo.) Told activists on a call on Tuesday. “You can’t turn the corner without finding another pharmaceutical lobbyist up here.”