There were a handful of issues on which then-candidate Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy in 2016, and as regular readers may recall, lowering prices on prescription medications was near the top of the list. In fact, before getting elected, he complained bitterly about the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobbyists, and said drug companies were “getting away with murder.”
Trump even accused the drug industry of corruption, arguing that pharmaceutical companies contributed “massive amounts of money” to politicians as part of a scheme to keep the cost of medicines higher. In his first press conference as president-elect in 2017, he specifically complained, “Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”
Trump then took office, met with Big Pharma lobbyists, and promptly abandoned his earlier plans.
This morning, his successor will succeed where Trump failed. The Washington Post noted today’s schedule at the White House:
President Biden is scheduled to return to Washington briefly on Tuesday to sign the Inflation Reduction Act, a sprawling bill that aims to lower prescription drug costs, address global warming, raise taxes on some billion-dollar corporations and reduce the federal deficit.
There’s no shortage of important elements in the Democrats’ reconciliation package, but among the most important is a breakthrough policy: For the first time, Medicare will be empowered to negotiate the cost of some of the most expensive prescription medications with the pharmaceutical industry.
Democrats have worked on this issue for nearly three decades, but Big Pharma’s lobbyists successfully stood in the way. This year, Democrats succeeded anyway.
In the process, the majority party didn’t just check off a major priority on its overarching legislative to-do list; it also fulfilled one of Trump’s campaign promises that the Republican failed to achieve.
If this dynamic sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination.
Trump tried and failed to deliver an infrastructure package, while Biden succeeded on the issue.
Trump tried and failed to advance legislation to address gun violence, while Biden succeeded on the issue.
Trump said he’d use Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs, while Biden succeeded on the issue.
Trump tried and failed to deliver record job growth, while Biden succeeded on the issue.
Trump even endorsed penalties for stock buybacks, while Biden succeeded on the issue.
For the former president, the problem is not just that Biden has succeeded while Trump failed, it’s also that Biden succeeded where Trump failed.