Moderate Democrats push back on Pelosi-backed bill to lower prescription drug prices

While nearly everyone agrees that prescription drug prices in America are much too high, there remains little agreement in Washington about what exactly should be done to address the problem. And now, it seems not even all Democrats are on the same page about it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been trumpeting H.R. 3, a partisan package to cut drug prices, for years. But according to Politico, she’s now facing opposition to the legislation not just from Republicans, but also from at least 10 moderate House Dems.

Given their slim majority in the lower chamber, Pelosi-led Democrats can only afford to lose the support of two or three members of their caucus if they want to push the bill through to President Joe Biden’s desk — meaning those 10 Dems could effectively block the measure from ever coming to fruition, if they indeed defect.

Bucking the trend

Leading the charge in betraying Pelosi on the topic of H.R. 3 is Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat from California who drafted a letter earlier this month urging Pelosi to drop her plans to force the legislation through the House on a party-line vote.

Instead, he and others said Democrat House leaders ought to “work collaboratively” on the bill with Republicans in the House and the evenly split Senate, as well as President Joe Biden’s White House and industry stakeholders.

“It is imperative that we pass legislation that can reach the President’s desk to deliver on our promise of bringing down health care costs for the American people,” the letter, which was shared by Politico, read in part. “To achieve this, we must garner bipartisan, bicameral support, with buy-in from a majority of Americans and stakeholders in the public and private sectors.”

In addition to Peters, Democrat Reps. Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Kathleen Rice of New York, and Stephanie Murphy of Florida also signed onto the letter, as did Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Frank Mrvan (D-IN), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Tony Cardenas (D-CA).

A look ahead

The group suggested in their message to Pelosi that H.R. 3 be scaled back from its original form and focus only on smaller, incremental changes that have broad support among legislators in both parties.

One option for that comes in the form of a bipartisan bill put together by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The law would largely focus on reducing drug costs for seniors and preventing prices from rising too fast.

As Politico notes, even that measure has faced some opposition within the GOP for giving the federal government too heavy of a hand on the free market. But with midterms looming, time is running out for Democrats who promised their constituents that change would be coming — and they may soon find that voters aren’t happy with their lack of action.

That doesn’t mean H.R. 3 is the solution, though, as Calvin Moore, communications director for the conservative-leaning American Action Network (AAN), pointed out in a Wednesday statement describing the legislation as “Pelosi’s socialist prescription drug takeover plan.”

“Even Congressional liberals are sounding the alarm on Pelosi’s proposal because they know it will send jobs to China and limit access to breakthrough new medications,” Moore said. “Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats thinking of voting for this dangerous bill should heed their colleagues’ warnings and return to the negotiating table for bipartisan reforms that will not threaten our health or national security,” he added.

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