President Joe Biden wants to expand the federal government's ability to negotiate prescription drug prices even further.
The White House is looking to a coming battle with the pharmaceutical industry as an opportunity to bash the GOP for aligning with a powerful interest group and to burnish President Joe Biden’s populist credentials ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
In a new memo, released just hours after the federal government named the first 10 drugs set to be subject to price negotiations, administration officials made clear they hope to continue driving at the difference between Biden and congressional Republicans on the issue.
Republicans, who do not appear to share Biden’s eagerness to debate the issue, have repeatedly said they hope to repeal the entirety of the Inflation Reduction Act, including the ultra-popular provisions giving the federal government the power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, has filed a multitude of lawsuits aiming to block the negotiations, which they spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against.
Both Republicans and industry groups insist allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs — something governments do in every other wealthy nation — will slow or stop the development of new drugs.
“This fight is far from over. President Biden is pushing to expand Medicare’s capacity to negotiate lower drug costs, which he released a concrete plan for in his budget,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote in the new memo. “[C]ongressional Republicans continue to side with Big Pharma’s price gouging and cuts to Medicare benefits instead.”
Bates pointed to comments from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) at a June hearing backing the industry’s lawsuits, and at a new plan from the Republican Study Committee ― a conservative group consisting of a majority of House Republicans ― aiming to repeal the negotiation provisions.
“The handouts congressional Republicans are pursuing for Big Pharma would explode our deficit, weaken Medicare, and subject more American seniors and families to price gouging for life-saving medicines,” Bates wrote. “Across the board, the hallmark of congressional Republicans’ trickle-down economic agenda is to increase costs and financial burdens shouldered by hardworking Americans in exchange for welfare payoffs to the super rich and multinational corporations. In this case, Big Pharma. Their philosophy is the polar opposite of Bidenomics.”
The prescription drug fight is crucial to older Americans, the most reliable voting bloc in U.S. elections, and also plays into Biden’s larger message about standing up for families struggling with high costs while Republicans back the power of large corporations.
Biden’s most likely 2024 Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, occasionally mused about supporting prescription drug negotiation but never took any concrete steps toward making it a reality. An executive order he issued late in his term aimed at lowering drug prices was blocked by the courts and then discarded by Biden.
Republicans on Tuesday seemed mostly determined to ignore the announcement. Just a single House Republican, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa, commented on the administration’s price negotiation rollout on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, arguing the move would slow the development of new cures.
And it’s already having a negative effect both here and abroad on the pipeline for new cures. There are better ways to lower drug costs. https://t.co/a1kULKdj0l
— Dr. Miller-Meeks (@millermeeks) August 29, 2023
Three key Republican lawmakers — House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (Mo.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (Wash.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo (Idaho) — released a series of statements criticizing the plan.
“While the President gleefully celebrates announcing the first ten drugs forced into his socialist price setting scheme, Americans are already seeing fewer potentially lifesaving cures and treatments,” McMorris-Rodgers said.
Still, the GOP’s official political organs had little to say on the matter, with the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee instead sharing messages about scandals related to Hunter Biden and to immigration.