Drug pricing is out of Biden’s framework, but Dems say they’re not giving up yet

Two Democratic committee chairmen said Thursday that they are not giving up on including provisions to lower prescription drug prices in President Biden‘s social spending package after it was left out of a framework released by the White House.

“We’re staying at it. This is too important,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “I’ve had a number of conversations on that this morning.”

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide said Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) “does not think the Build Back Better Act can pass the House without meaningful reforms to lower the cost of prescription drugs.”

But the path forward remains steep, given objections from a handful of moderate Democrats.

Where things stand: One of those moderate Democrats, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), reached an agreement with the White House on a far more scaled-back drug pricing measure, according to a source familiar with the talks.

That agreement was similar to a proposal put forward by Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), which would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices only in far more limited circumstances, for older drugs that no longer have patent protection.

That proposal has been described as grossly inadequate by drug pricing advocates and by a key House Democratic chairman.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide said Thursday that the proposal “would be unable to pass in the House,” and “would do functionally nothing to lower prescription drug prices for the American people.”

Path forward: So it remains to be seen if lawmakers can reach a deal to satisfy both Sinema and the many Democrats who want to go further.