Texas Dems pressure Cruz, Cornyn to defy Big Pharma and pass lower drug prices bill

by | Dec 17, 2019 | Health Care, Policy

Democrats from Texas’ congressional delegation are calling on Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to consider a sweeping drug prices bill passed by House Democrats last week. 

The bill aims to lower rising drug prices by allowing the government to negotiate the price of life-saving medicines, like insulin. Those newly negotiated drug prices would then be available to purchase with Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans. 

“HR 3 is going to reverse high drug costs,” Rep. Veasey said in a statement. “HR 3 gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with drug companies, and the lower prices negotiated by Medicare will be transparent so that private insurance companies can make the same prices available to their members.”

Despite the overwhelming popularity behind the idea of the government negotiating drug prices, the state’s two Republican Senators seem unlikely to support the Democratic bill, which has already been declared “dead on arrival” in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“The onus is now on John Cornyn and the U.S. Senate to pass the bill,” said Texas Democrats Executive Director Manny Garcia in a conference call on Tuesday, lamenting what he called the “McConnell-Cornyn legislative graveyard,” or the staunch refusal by Senate Republican leaders to consider House-passed legislation on gun violence, immigration reform, and now drug prices.

Members of the Texas congressional delegation — Reps. Marc Veasey, Lloyd Doggett, and Sylvia Garcia– also joined the call to talk about the bill’s importance to Texas.

So far, Cruz has remained quiet concerning his position on the bill, but Cornyn, does not appear interested in considering the Democratic proposal. 

Doggett said the Democratic proposal is unique in its ability to tackle rising drug prices. 

“There is not a single bipartisan proposal that Republicans say they support that will lower manufacturer’s drug prices by a penny,” Doggett said, adding that Republican fear-mongering over the bill and how it would stifle innovation was unfounded. 

When the lawmakers were asked by the Signal what role campaign donations have played in blocking the drug pricing bill from consideration in the Senate (Cornyn himself has a lengthy history of taking more than $800,000 in pharmaceutical contributions), Veasey and Garcia pointed to HR 1– the sweeping Democratic bill to get money out of politics that is now also languishing in the Republican-controlled Senate– as a critical piece of legislation that would thwart the influence of special interests in Congress.

“Money talks,” Rep. Garcia said. “This is a no-brainer, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to reduce prescription drug prices. So when people don’t come to the table for a serious discussion, you have to wonder why they’re not doing it. And if you look at campaign finance reports and see where their contributions are coming from, it leads you to the direction of an answer.”

Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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