Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Oversight and Reform Committee's ranking member, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Republicans warn drug companies not to cooperate with investigation

Earlier this year, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee took an interest in how the pharmaceutical industry sets prices on prescription medications, and Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) reached out to the major drug companies for information. None of this was especially surprising – it’s an important issue, of concern to millions of Americans, and it’s understandable that the committee would seek answers.

What’s surprising, however, is how two of the panel’s far-right members responded to the effort. BuzzFeed reported this week:

In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

I’m not aware of anything like this ever happening before. Two members of Congress, in effect, have taken steps to undermine their own committee’s investigation of a private industry.

We’ve seen Republicans reach out to a foreign country’s leaders in the hopes of sabotaging nuclear talks, and we’ve seen Republicans reach out to sports leagues in the hopes of discouraging Americans from getting health care coverage, but Republicans warning an industry about cooperating with their own branch of government’s investigation seems entirely new.

BuzzFeed’s report went on to note that Jordan and Meadows – leaders of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus – want Big Pharma to believe Democrats will misuse the information drug companies provide as part of a dastardly plot to drive down stock prices.

In other words, two of Congress’ most high-profile conservatives are justifying their efforts to undermine a congressional investigation by peddling a conspiracy theory.

Cummings added that the far-right duo would apparently rather “protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people.”

The irony is, this is one of the few areas in the health care debate in which Republicans believe they have a credible story to tell. Just a few days ago, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney boasted to Fox News, “[W]e don’t get nearly enough attention, I don’t think, for what we’ve done with drug prices.”

To the extent that reality matters, Mulvaney’s argument is flawed. As the Associated Press recently explained, drug prices “continue to rise. Administration policies announced last year and currently being completed don’t seem to have shifted that trend.”

But now the story looks a little worse. Republican policies aren’t just falling short, we now see prominent GOP lawmakers warning the pharmaceutical industry about cooperating with an investigation into drug prices.

“Party of health care,” indeed.