A pharmacy employee dumps pills into a pill counting machine as she fills a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York December 23, 2009.
Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Despite GOP opposition, Dems pass bill to lower prescription costs

Updated

The Republican National Committee published a curious tweet this morning, accusing congressional Democrats of not being “focused on lowering prescription drug prices.” It’s a popular line of attack from Donald Trump, too, who’s repeatedly demanded that the House Democratic majority tackle the issue.

Republicans probably should’ve picked a different line of attack. House Dems passed a bill on prescription-drug costs in May – making it easier for generic drugs to enter the market – and they passed even more ambitious legislation this afternoon. The New York Times reported:

The House, delivering on one of the Democrats’ central campaign promises, on Thursday passed ambitious legislation to lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by empowering the federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The bill, known as H.R. 3 – a numerical designation that reflects its position on Democrats’ priority list – would make significant changes to the federal Medicare program, which provides health coverage to older Americans.

The bill passed 230 to 192. Democrats were unanimous in their support for the proposal, while only two Republicans – Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) – broke ranks to vote with the majority. The rest of the GOP conference opposed the bill.

Stepping back, I think there are a few angles to this that are worth keeping in mind. First, this is a good bill, made even more progressive after some recent negotiations between the House Democratic leadership and some of the conference’s more liberal members. Perhaps most notably, the bill, among other things, empowers Medicare to negotiate directly with the private pharmaceutical industry.

In theory, that’s a position Donald Trump should like – he endorsed the policy a few years ago – but lobbyists help steer the president in a more conservative direction, and both the White House and Senate Republicans announced their opposition to the bill passed by the House today.

Second, House Democrats continue to make impressive progress on their top legislative priorities. As we discussed the other day, in every Congress, the House majority leadership, regardless of which party is in control, sets aside the first 10 available bill numbers. It’s intended as a symbolic way to signal a party’s top legislative priorities: H.R. 1 through H.R. 10 will reflect the leadership’s most important goals.

So far this year, the House Democratic majority has passed its democracy-reform package (H.R. 1), the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), the Equality Act to expand civil rights to LGBTQ Americans (H.R. 5), the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), the Paycheck Fairness Act to address pay disparities between men and women (H.R. 7), a bill to expand background checks on gun purchases (H.R. 8), and a bill to address the climate crisis (H.R. 9). Today, they added the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) to the list.

House Dems have also passed bills to lower prescription drug costs, expand the Violence Against Women Act, and expand the Dream Act for young immigrants.

The Republican-led Senate, meanwhile, barely tries to do any legislating at all. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) complained over the summer that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has “effectively turned the United States Senate into a very expensive lunch club that occasionally votes on a judge or two.”

The same week, Politico ran a piece describing the upper chamber as a legislative “graveyard,” adding, “The Senate standstill is frustrating even some in the GOP.”

Finally, in conservative circles, it’s taken as a given that Democrats can’t legislate and pursue impeachment at the same time. The evidence to the contrary is hard to miss.