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Senate Republicans derail insulin price cap for many consumers

Democrats needed 10 Republican votes to create a price cap on consumers' insulin costs. They ended up three GOP votes short.


As part of the painfully difficult process of passing the Inflation Reduction Act, the Senate had to go through something popularly known as the “vote-a-rama.” Long story short, because lawmakers were utilizing the budget reconciliation process, members were allowed to introduce a seemingly endless number of amendments to the underlying bill.

For those who watched the lengthy drama unfold, it was an often absurd display, featuring Republicans’ poison-pill amendments that were intended to either derail the bill, generate attack-ad fodder, or both. There were, however, some notable exceptions during yesterday’s floor proceedings. NBC News reported:

Republican senators on Sunday voted down a cap on the price of insulin in the private market, removing it from Democrats’ sweeping climate and economic package. Democrats had tried to preserve the provision to cap insulin costs at $35 for private insurers, but that vote failed 57-43, with seven Republicans voting with them to keep the insulin cost cap in the bill, three short of what was needed.

Note, a $35 copay cap on the price of insulin for Medicare recipients survived the process, but those covered by private insurers won’t get the benefit.

Part of the problem was procedural. Senate Democratic leaders agreed last week to include the insulin price cap in the overall package, but the provision did not withstand scrutiny from the Senate parliamentarian, who said the policy fell outside the strict, arcane reconciliation rules.

At that point, however, Democrats did something interesting: Party leaders included the provision in their bill anyway and effectively dared Republicans to challenge it on procedural grounds.

GOP senators did exactly that, using the parliamentarian’s concerns as the basis for an objection. Democrats thought they might still succeed anyway, since with 60 votes, the objection would’ve failed and insulin price cap would’ve survived.

All Democrats needed was 10 Republican votes. They ended up with seven. As NBC News’ report added, GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana; Susan Collins of Maine; Josh Hawley of Missouri; Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi; and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska joined Democrats in voting to keep the insulin cap for private insurers, but 43 Senate Republicans balked.

These 43 GOP senators knew the overall bill was likely to pass, and they could’ve let the policy remain intact, but they voted against it anyway.

Among the 43 were quite a few senators who are up for re-election this year, including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, and Utah’s Mike Lee — each of whom could’ve done the popular thing to help consumers, but they chose not to.

The irony is, most of the GOP amendments from the vote-a-rama were designed with attack ads in mind, but it was the vote on insulin prices that might very well come back to haunt some of the Republicans who killed the policy.