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Does Impeachment Destroy Any Hope of a Trump-Pelosi Deal on Drug Prices?

Yuval Rosenberg

As the House impeachment probe into President Trump threatens to push aside envelop everything else on the political landscape, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried Wednesday to emphasize that Democrats still intend to pursue a domestic policy agenda.

“They have nothing to do with each other,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference that she began by talking about her prescription drug bill. “We have a responsibility to uphold our oath of office and defend the Constitution. We also have a responsibility to get the job done for the American people.”

Pelosi brought up legislation to lower prescription drug prices and congressional talks with the administration on its new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. She even mentioned infrastructure.

The gathered press was understandably more focused on impeachment. “Does anybody in this room care about the cost of prescription drugs and what it means to America’s working families?” Pelosi said after opening up her press conference to questions. “Does anyone care about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement?”

Trump’s focus is clearly on impeachment as well. The president took to Twitter while Pelosi was speaking to accuse her of trying to “camouflage” Democratic electioneering. “Nancy Pelosi just said that she is interested in lowering prescription drug prices & working on the desperately needed USMCA,” he tweeted. “She is incapable of working on either. It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!”

In a separate tweet, he said “Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected.”

A small step forward: Yet if the prospect of passing legislation on drug prices seems dim, both sides still do want to show some progress, and they haven’t abandoned all efforts at working together. Senior White House aides met with some Democratic counterparts on Tuesday to discuss drug pricing legislation, the Associated Press reports. Joe Grogan, director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, told the AP it was “a very cordial and productive working session.”

Still, a deal on drug prices may be a longshot: “It will take both sides acting in good faith to get bipartisan legislation done,” The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips writes. “That’s difficult in the best of times in a divided government. We are not in the best of times.”

Another big challenge ahead: Phillips also notes that Congress and Trump still have to agree on funding the government for fiscal year 2020. The fiscal year started Tuesday, and lawmakers have passed a short-term spending bill to keep the government running until shortly before Thanksgiving. But the impeachment push, combined with Trump’s continued emphasis on securing funding for his border wall, could complicate efforts to reach a bipartisan deal on full-year funding bills. If they can’t reach a deal, lawmakers might resort to a series of short-term extensions. “That would seem like a failure to compromise, since funding the government for a whole year is Congress’s most basic job,” Phillips says. “But in the middle of a historic impeachment inquiry, nearing an election year where both sides have something at stake, it is possible that avoiding a government shutdown is all the compromise we are going to see.”

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