Big Pharma, GOP Plot to Use Senate Parliamentarian to Stop Drug Price Reforms

The pharmaceutical industry and its allies in the Republican Party are reportedly teaming up to craft challenges to congressional Democrats’ drug price reform plan in the hopes of convincing the Senate parliamentarian — an unelected functionary — to help tank the proposal.

Earlier in the month, Democrats struck an agreement. dealOn a scaled back plan that would allow Medicare directly to negotiate prices for a more limited subsetPrescription medicines penalizeCompanies that raise drug prices faster than inflation. The proposed fines for violating the inflation cap would apply to both Medicare and private plans, threatening the pharmaceutical industry’s virtually unchecked power to set pricesAs they please.

Though Big Pharma’s massive lobbying blitzAfter Democrats significantly weakened their original, the results were apparent to have paid off. broadly popularReform proposal Politico reported that “the way the plan would extend price controls beyond Medicare… is stoking another battle over” the Build Back Better package, a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda.

Drug industry lobbyists — who outnumber members of Congress by a ratio of three to one — are “urging Republican senators to scuttle the drug-pricing language with parliamentary challenges while looking for cracks in the Democrats’ ranks after the industry fought off more aggressive House attempts to impose drug price controls,” according to Politico.

“Backers fear both practical and political consequences if the inflation cap is stripped out — warning that drug companies could hike prices for the roughly 180 million people on employer health plans or other private insurance to make up for the revenue they stand to lose from Medicare price negotiations and other provisions of the bill,” the outlet added.

Under Senate rules, each provision of a reconciliation bill must have a direct — not “merely incidental” — impact on the federal budget, a highly subjectiveUnelected parliamentarians are charged with the responsibility of determining the verdict.

“This should never pass as normal: only in the dysfunctional U.S. can a single parliamentarian have more power than millions of voters to decide the economic wellbeing of the nation,” progressive activist Jonathan Tasini said Saturday.

In recent months, Elizabeth MacDonough — the current Senate parliamentarian — has deemed a proposed $15 federal minimum wageYou can also find out more about a pathway to citizenshipNonbinding opinions that Democratic lawmakers have refused to overrule for millions of undocumented immigrant families are available.

Now Senate Republicans are hoping that, with Big Pharma’s help, they can convince MacDonough to sink the proposed inflation cap, a key component of Democrats’ plan to rein in U.S. drug prices, which are the highest in the industrialized world.

Politico reported that lobbyists and Republicans are hoping the parliamentarian will see the inflation cap as “more policy-based and intended to hold down drug prices in the commercial market, regardless of how much money it saves the government.” The White House estimates the provision would save the federal government $100 billion over a decade.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D.Ore.), chair, Senate Finance Committee and a championTelling the story of drug price reforms Politico that he has “insisted on” the inflation cap “applying to the commercial sector” and voiced confidence that the provision will ultimately remain in the final Build Back Better package.

“What that means is that, not just for seniors but for millions of Americans, their drug prices wouldn’t go up more than inflation unless the companies are willing to pay a penalty,” said Wyden. “I still have to go through the parliamentarian. But I think it’s going to be okay.”

The fight over Democrats’ proposed drug price reforms is heating up ahead of an expected House vote on the full reconciliation package this week. If the bill is passed, it will move to Senate.

The drug price plan was in effect at one time last month. removedThe Build Back Better proposal was scrapped entirely due to opposition from the pharmaceutical industry as well as corporate-backed Democrats in both the House and Senate. Sen. Bob Menendez(D-N.J. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).

Thanks to the efforts of progressive lawmakers — including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — and grassroots advocates, Democrats inserted a more limited but still potentially impactful drug price plan that supporters hope will serve as a starting point for more ambitious actionIn the future.

“It is not some radical idea to suggest that Americans should not have to die because we are the only major country that allows drug companies to raise prices to whatever they want, whenever they want,” Sanders tweeted Sunday.

“While we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and one out of four Americans can’t afford the medicine they need, the top 15 pharmaceutical executives pulled in more than $470 million in salaries and bonuses last year,” the Vermont senator wroteSeparate post “Greed. Greed. Greed.”