Drug Pricing Bill in Jeopardy as Moderates Vote Against It (1)

  • Three Democrats block drug pricing bill in health panel
  • Failed vote won’t stop policy agenda, House leaders say

(Updates throughout with results of House Ways and Means vote.)

House leaders vowed to press ahead with their health-care agenda Wednesday, even though enough Democrats oppose a key drug-pricing proposal to sink its chances in the House.

Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) joined Republicans in opposing a bill to allow the government to demand lower prices from drugmakers and cap price increases on some medicines at the rate of inflation. The measure failed to advance in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a 29-29 tied vote.

“We have to lower out-of-pocket costs for patients and preserve the American system of private investment in innovation,” said Peters. He, Schrader, and Rice sought passage of a similar but narrower drug pricing measure.

A similar drug pricing proposal advanced later in the day at the House Ways and Means Committee on a 24-19 vote but was opposed by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.).

The Democratic opposition raises questions about whether party leaders have enough support from their own members for a domestic policy package that includes drug pricing provisions. The drug proposal is meant to offset some of the cost of Democrats’ broader health agenda, which includes expanding Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

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Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) speaks during a House Rules Committee hearing on Aug. 23, 2021.

Democrats plan to advance their sweeping spending package using reconciliation, a procedure that requires only a simple majority to pass legislation in the Senate.

On the House floor, Democrats can only lose three party members, if all members are voting and all Republicans vote ‘no,’ and still pass the bill. Four Democrats voted against the proposal during Wednesday’s committee votes.

A spokesperson for Rice said she opposes provisions that jeopardize the bill’s final passage in the Senate.

‘Work Continues’

Democratic leaders signaled that the failed Energy and Commerce vote won’t stop them from moving forward with their drug pricing bill.

Henry Connelly, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said it’s still a priority for Democrats to secure lower drug prices and “work continues between the House, Senate and White House on the final bill.”

Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) pleaded with his colleagues to work with leadership on changes to their drug pricing legislation, rather than oppose it.

“I would really like to have you at the table over the next couple of weeks as we negotiate this,” Pallone told his colleagues at the markup.

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Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is working on his own Medicare drug pricing negotiation measure but has yet to unveil it.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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