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House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices

The House will vote next week on a sweeping Democratic bill to lower drug prices, leaders announced on Thursday. 

The bill, a top priority for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats, would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for up to 250 drugs per year, with the lower prices applied to people with private insurance as well as Medicare. 

Democrats have tried to show that they are moving forward with kitchen-table issues like lowering drug prices at the same time they are also taking steps forward on impeaching President Trump

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“We are going to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, and make those prices available to Americans with private insurance as well as Medicare beneficiaries,” Pelosi said in a statement along with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and three key committee chairmen, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.). “American seniors and families shouldn’t have to pay more for their medicines than what Big Pharma charges in other countries for the same drugs.”

The bill is expected to pass on a largely party-line vote, but is likely to die in the Senate, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called the legislation “socialist” and vowed to block it. 

Republicans have warned the bill would hinder the development of new cures. 

Pelosi had been hoping that Trump would lend his support to the bill to help it get through the Senate, but after months of talks, the White House has recently started attacking the bill, making clear its opposition. 

Trump is instead backing a more modest bipartisan drug-pricing bill in the Senate, from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), though that measure also faces opposition from many GOP senators. 

There is still some question about House progressives’ stance on Pelosi’s bill. Progressives have pushed for months for the bill to be stronger, including allowing negotiations on a higher number of drugs per year, but they have not explicitly threatened to vote no if they do not get their changes. 

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