Senate lawmakers on Saturday rejected a key aspect of a Democrat-proposed plan to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Saturday morning that Congressman Elizabeth McDonough released her guidance that the inflation rebate aspect of Democratic legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, should be more limited in scope.
“While there is an unfortunate ruling that the scope of the inflation rebate is more limited, the entire program remains intact and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering prescription drug prices for millions of Americans,” he said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced an agreement on the legislation, a key part of which would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
In addition, the legislation would require drug companies to pay Medicare the difference between inflation and drug price increases if drug prices rise above inflation.
Democrats with just 50 senators hope to pass their legislation through a process known as budget settlement, which would allow them to pass it with a simple majority and sidestep Republican obstruction. But it will require a united front from all senators, with Vice President Kamala Harris in the tiebreaker.
To do so, Senate members must refer the bill to “Birdbass,” who will determine whether the legislation is closely related to the budget, or if it’s considered an “unrelated matter.” Guidance from Senate members is non-binding, but requires the vice president to veto the members, which is unlikely to happen.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he adjourned the Senate on Friday to give Ms. McDonough a chance to thoroughly review the legislation, but the Senate would vote on a motion, which will begin debate on Saturday.
Democrats are currently waiting for Ms. McDonough to release her guidance on Sen. Rafael Warnock’s legislation in a bill that would cap insulin prices at $35 for people with diabetes. Mr Warnock faces a tough re-election bid in Georgia in November.