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Democratic trio blocks plan to negotiate lower drug prices

Democratic trio blocks plan to negotiate lower drug prices
Reps. Kurt Shrader, D-Ore.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., joined with Republicans to block a plan allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 15 (UPI) -- A trio of moderate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a plan that would authorize direct government negotiation of drug prices to help pay for the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion spending bill.

Reps. Kurt Shrader, D-Ore.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., joined Republicans in voting against the matter, resulting in a 29-29 tie at the end of a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of the package, preventing the provision from advancing.

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Under the plan, the secretary of Health and Human Services would be able to negotiate lower drug prices but the lawmakers cited concerns that the policy could harm the ability of drug companies to develop new drugs.

Peters said that "government-dictated prices" under the plan would harm "private investment" that backs drug development, while Schrader said the bill would lead to "killing jobs and innovation" that lead to cures for rare diseases.

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The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the drug pricing measures on Wednesday, keeping it as an option for later in the legislative process.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., urged the lawmakers to "vote to move forward today" and continue the conversation but remained optimistic the plan would be in the final spending bill.

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"I know it is going to have drug pricing reform," he said.

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Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also said Democrats would continue to pursue drug pricing measures.

"Delivering lower drug costs is a top priority of the American people and will remain a cornerstone of the Build Back Better Act as work continues between the House, Senate and White House on the final bill," he said.

Advocate groups panned the decision by the three lawmakers to block the plan on Wednesday.

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"It is disgusting when politicians who supported Medicare negotiation in the past switch their votes in exchange for pharma cash," Social Security Works said. "Any politician standing in the way of lower drug prices is on a short path to losing their job."

Patrick Gaspard, president of the Center for American Progress, accused the lawmakers of "prioritizing drug company profits" above the American people.

"To the contrary of what they contend, their opposition to the drugs proposal threatens the entirety of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda, which Democrats have campaigned on for years and that they previously voted for," Gaspard said.

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