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Trump and Pelosi Still Working on Drug Prices: Report

Yuval Rosenberg

Despite the drama unfolding daily in the House impeachment inquiry — and the rising animosity between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the two sides are still trying to reach a deal on legislation to lower the cost of prescription drug prices, The Washington Post’s Paige Winfield Cunningham writes:

“Pelosi’s office and the White House confirmed that the speaker's top health aide, Wendell Primus, spoke on the phone last week with Joe Grogan, director of the Trump's Domestic Policy Council. … If the two were to strike a deal, it would probably be within the next few weeks, before Congress leaves town for the Thanksgiving holiday.”

But Pelosi still faces some pushback from the left wing of her own caucus. Multiple Democrats warned in a “tense” private meeting Tuesday that the legislation does not go far enough in authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, Politico reported. Some progressives worry that the bill does not explicitly lift the current ban on such negotiations and instead only creates a narrow exception to the law, allowing the government to push for lower prices on at least 35 — and no more than 250 — of the most expensive medicines.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who has been vocal in questioning the effectiveness of Pelosi’s bill, voted “present” and reportedly made clear he still wants changes to the measure as the House Ways and Means Committee advanced it after a lengthy markup session. Republicans on the committee all voted against the bill. Other progressives are reportedly planning to push for votes on amendments to the bill when it comes up for a vote on the House floor, potentially as soon as next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that his chamber won’t consider Pelosi’s plan, and Democrats face an internal rift over whether to tailor the legislation to please their progressive base or try to craft a bill that might stand a better chance of winning Republican votes, according to Politico. The intraparty split, some Democrats warned, could threaten their ability to pass the legislation in the House let alone get it through the Senate.

The bottom line: Progressives argue that it’s unrealistic to think that Trump will back a Pelosi bill and so Democrats might as well make the legislation as bold as possible, both as a way to appeal to the liberal base and to establish a framework to be used in the future. But Pelosi and Trump both have reason to want to reach a deal ahead of the 2020 elections. Stay tuned.

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