WASHINGTON — Democrats in competitive election races were quick to tout their sweeping new climate and economic package after it passed the Senate on Sunday in a party-line vote, with all Republicans opposing it.
Some were particularly excited to celebrate policies aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
“I am especially proud that the legislation includes two provisions I have introduced to limit insulin costs for Medicare patients to $35 per month and to limit the cost of prescription drugs for seniors,” said Senator Raphael Warnock, D- Ga., who faces Republican Herschel Walker in one of the most competitive Senate races this fall.
The Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate the price of certain drugs directly with the pharmaceutical industry for the first time, a move supported by 83% of Americans in a opinion poll performed last fall by the impartial Kaiser Family Foundation.
sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., another politically vulnerable incumbent, was also given credit for the policy. “We have our plan to lower prescription drug prices in the final bill,” he said.
Democratic strategists are counting on the issue to help them deal with stiff political headwinds in their quest to retain control of Congress, with Republicans needing just a handful of seats in November to capture a majority in both chambers.
“The prescription drug is extremely, extremely popular,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. “People have wanted it for a long time. This is a real opportunity for Joe Biden to say he’s fighting special interests and for individual candidates to say the same,” she said, noting that the policy is “particularly powerful among older women.” , a key block of swing voters.”
“It creates a contrast. No Republican voted for it,” she said.
When asked whether opposing drug pricing provisions would be politically dangerous for his party, Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, dismissed them as “socialist price controls” that would hurt the goal of a “healthy pharmaceutical industry.”
“I don’t think socializing prices — that is, putting the government in charge of this — is the way to continue the kind of healthy, effective pharmaceutical industry that has saved the lives of millions of Americans,” he said last month. to reporters, predicting it would lead to “fewer cures” and “shorter lives.”
As the bill passed the House over the weekend, Senate Republicans voted unanimously in favor of an amendment to exempt certain drugs that treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., who proposed the provision, said subjecting those drugs to the law’s policies would “kill innovation.” Democrats voted against.
Blake Masters, the Republican from Arizona who will take on Kelly this fall, vowed in a… video Sunday that “he’s going to own this awful voice.”
But not all GOP candidates in competitive races are rushing to oppose Democrats’ pharmaceutical policies, hinting at its popularity among voters.
Scott Baugh, the Republican nominee versus Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., in an Orange County swing district, dismissed most of the Inflation Reduction Act as “doubling down on a failed policy,” but called drug price the only item he’s open to.
“There are some things in it about drug pricing that we need to look at and fully evaluate,” he said in a recent interview at his Newport Beach office. “I’m looking forward to that, yes.”
Porter, who is listed by the Democrats’ campaign arm as a “frontliner” in the fight to retain control of the House, told NBC News when the bill was finalized that she expects to vote for it.
“I’ve done a lot to stand up to pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “I think Medicare should be able to negotiate prices.”
Some progressives, with complaints that the Medicare negotiations would take too long to get started, have said Americans won’t feel the benefits for years. That means Democrats may need to make a strong sell-out if they want voters to reward them halfway through.
After his efforts to bolster the supply failed, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called it “a small step in dealing with the excessive prices of prescription drugs.”
“Unfortunately, that provision will not take effect until 2026 and will start with just 10 drugs,” he said on Sunday.
Make ‘prescription drugs cheaper’
The Senate passed the legislation with the support of all 50 Democrats and the casting vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to be passed this week with Democrats from several factions of the majority party rallying around it.
While congressional leaders tend to pass important legislation so close to an election, the new bill is an exception, in part because Democrats see a net political advantage.
The legislation is a potpourri of poll-tested ideas, backed by a range of voters. The components of drug pricing and deficit reduction are particularly resonating with older and swinging voters, and the climate bill, which represents the largest spending in US history in this area, among the Democratic base and younger Americans.
The bill would also prevent a sticker shock in the form of higher premium increases just before the midterm elections, which Democrats had feared would hurt them politically.
“It will power our base by tackling climate change and showing voters that Democrats are serious about fiscal responsibility and tackling inflation,” said Sean McElwee, a progressive strategist at Data For Progress, whose poll on the bill was quoted by Schumer.
John Fetterman, a Democratic Senate nominee from Pennsylvania, which takes famed physician Mehmet Oz in an open seat, also promoted the legislation, saying it would “reduce inflation” and “cut costs for working families.”
Among other things, it would “make health insurance and prescription drugs cheaper,” he said.
JB Poersch, chairman of Senate Majority PAC, a deep-pocketed group working to boost Democrats, told NBC News: “Americans are looking for tangible steps to cut costs. the insulin costs for Medicare patients and preventing Republicans from ending Obamacare are real steps.