Three moderate House Democrats on Wednesday joined Republicans to sink their own party’s proposal to lower drug prices, putting a key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda at risk, Politico reports.
California Rep. Scott Peters, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schader joined every Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to vote against a bill that would link drug prices to those overseas in hopes of saving the government about $500 billion in payments to the pharmaceutical industry.
The vote resulted in a tie, meaning that the legislation did not proceed out of the committee to the full House.
“I just don’t think paying for a lot of things by crippling investments in life sciences is really the way to go forward,” Peters said. “Losing the investment in pharma is too big a price to pay.”
Peters represents a district with a large number of pharmaceutical workers and has proposed an alternative bill that would save about 20% as much as the bill he voted against.
The revenue is necessary to help Democrats pay for a large swatch of proposals in their $3.5 trillion spending bill.
But the bill is not dead:
Despite the vote, the House Ways and Means Committee later on Wednesday voted to advance the same legislation that was voted down in the E&C Committee.
But House Democrats have only a three-vote majority which means that the three opposing Democrats could still kill the provision before it makes it into the final bill.
Pelosi and E&C Committee Chairman Frank Palone have repeatedly tried to lobby the holdouts to support the bill. Pelosi said on Wednesday that the provision “will remain a cornerstone of the Build Back Better Act as work continues between the House, Senate and White House on the final bill.”
Progressives cry foul:
Progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups blasted the holdout Democrats for threatening to undermine a key part of the Democratic agenda.
“I am very disappointed in the 29-29 vote on prescription drugs that was taken today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I understand that the pharmaceutical industry owns the Republican Party and that no Republican voted for this bill, but there is no excuse for every Democrat not supporting it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement.
“The pharmaceutical industry has spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years and has hired some 1,200 lobbyists to get Congress to do its bidding. They are the most powerful industry on Capitol Hill. Nonetheless, the American people are demanding that Congress stand up to them and finally lower the outrageous price of prescription drugs by requiring Medicare to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry. Now is the time for Congress to show courage and stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. The American people will not accept surrender.”