Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices

Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstCampaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Politics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried Ernst calls for public presidential campaign funds to go to masks, protective equipment MORE (R-Iowa) on Tuesday announced her support for a bipartisan bill to lower drug prices, adding another GOP senator facing a competitive reelection race to the list of supporters. 

Ernst endorsed a bill from fellow Iowan Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBurr says intelligence watchdog should be 'independent' after inspector general firing Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill MORE (R) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Ore.). 

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Democratic super PAC targets McSally over coronavirus response McSally calls on WHO director to step down MORE (R-Ariz.), who also faces a tough campaign this year, endorsed the bill last week, helping to add some momentum to the effort. 

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But the bill still faces tough prospects given that many Republican senators object to one of its key provisions, which would limit drug price increases in Medicare to the rate of inflation, denouncing it as a “price control.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) acknowledged last week that Senate Republicans have “internal divisions” on the bill and declined to say whether it would get a vote. 

There is also a question of whether Democrats would make a deal on one of their signature campaign issues when they are pushing for a stronger bill from House Democrats, which Republicans have widely dismissed. 

Grassley is seeking to build support for his measure among Republicans by arguing it will help them keep control of the Senate this year by filling the need to act on a top issue for voters. 

There are now roughly 12 announced GOP senators supporting the bill, and Grassley said last week he thinks he needs 25 to convince McConnell to allow a vote. 

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The White House has also announced its support for the bill, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE seeks a victory on health care as well. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (R-Maine), also up for reelection this year, has endorsed the bill. Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGOP senator calls for investigation into 'mismanagement' of strategic ventilators Romney says he tested negative for coronavirus, will remain in quarantine Senate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina Senate race emerges as 2020 bellwether The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus MORE (R-N.C.), who face competitive races too, have so far declined to back it. 

“At nearly every town hall or other stop I make on my 99 County Tour, and even in discussions around the kitchen table with my family members who depend on life-saving medications, Iowans from every corner of the state have made it clear that they want to see Congress address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” Ernst said in a statement. 

Ernst on Tuesday also endorsed a more modest, GOP-only bill aimed at lowering drug prices led by Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoLobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions Stimulus empowers Treasury to rescue airlines with billion in direct assistance White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (R-Idaho).

Democrats said Ernst's endorsement of Grassley's bill was simply motivated by politics. 

“Senator Ernst’s eleventh hour flip-flop to pretend she’s fighting to lower health care and prescription drug costs is an act of political desperation to salvage her career in Washington,” said Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Jeremy Busch. 

Updated at 4:28 p.m.