The House is set to vote Thursday on a package of three bipartisan bills aimed at lowering drug prices, but Democratic leaders combined those measures with four other proposals to reverse the Trump administration’s controversial changes to the Affordable Care Act, putting Republicans in a bind.
“The move is likely to force most Republicans to sink the package and go on record as opposing efforts to control drug costs,” Politico’s Adam Cancryn and Sarah Owermohle report. “Mixing Obamacare with drug pricing would also effectively kill the legislation’s chances in the GOP-controlled Senate.”
The strategy has reportedly angered Republicans and generated some grumbling from centrist Democrats who wanted to put a bipartisan win on the board. “You had three good pieces of legislation here,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), according to The Washington Post. “Why not just package the ones you know are going to get through? And then we can continue to fight out our differences on the other four.”
House Democrats say the move was about budgeting, not just politics: “The trio of drug pricing bills would collectively save about $4 billion over a decade, making them valuable offsets for the Obamacare bills that call for greater federal spending to shore up the health law's insurance markets and reverse cuts imposed by the administration,” Cancryn and Owermohle say. But they note that Democratic leaders saw the political benefits of the strategy — effectively daring Republicans to vote against legislation to lower drug prices — as being greater than the risks involved.
House Democrats reportedly hope to revive the drug pricing measures later in the year and include them in broader must-pass legislation.