Trump praises rollout of Pelosi's drug pricing bill after McConnell rejects the measure

McConnell said in an interview hours before Trump's tweet that Pelosi’s measure is dead on arrival in the Senate.
Image: Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell arrives to speak to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, on Sept. 17, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., don't appear to be on the same page regarding the House Democrats’ drug pricing proposal.

Trump praised the rollout of the plan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday, tweeting that “it’s great to see Speaker Pelosi’s bill today. Let’s get it done in a bipartisan way!” He also said that he "very much" likes drug pricing legislation proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Just hours earlier, McConnell told Politico that Pelosi’s measure, however, is dead on arrival in the Senate.

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“Socialist price controls will do a lot of left-wing damage to the health care system. And of course we’re not going to be calling up a bill like that,” McConnell said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoed that sentiment on the Senate floor.

“The speaker's plan is just the latest example of a partisan messaging document masquerading as legislation, and it has absolutely no chance — zero, zip, nada — no chance of passing the Senate or becoming law,” Cornyn said. “Unlike the House, we've been considering bills that have broad bipartisan support, as I said, which means they have the potential to actually become law, to get something done.”

Pelosi’s bill would allow the federal government to negotiate the prices of at least 25 and potentially as many as 250 brand-name drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.

“We're saying 25 is the floor," Pelosi said at a news conference after introducing the measure. "We'd like it to be the highest number possible of the highest cost drugs that make the biggest difference, those drugs without competition. So, it is transformative.”

Pelosi added that she hopes to have White House buy-in, acknowledging that they would need Trump’s endorsement to garner votes in the Senate.

Trump has made reducing the cost of prescription drugs a priority as he seeks re-election, and, like the House Democratic proposal, his administration has considered tying drug prices to the costs of the drugs in several developed countries.

Grassley and Wyden's bill, which Trump praised, also shares some similarities with the Democrats' measure. Both bills would require drug companies to issue rebates to Medicare if they increase drug costs faster than inflation and it would cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors under Medicare.

The Senate bill also faces opposition from Republicans, and most of those on the Finance Committee voted against the legislation in July when the panel advanced the measure.