U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is flanked by U.S. Senators' Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as he faces reporters following the Senate Democrats weekly policy lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, November 2, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats reached an agreement on lowering prescription drug prices, a breakthrough on one of the party's thorniest disputes in their $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill.
"I'm pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached to lower prescription drug prices for seniors and families in the Build Back Better legislation," Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a press conference. "Fixing prescription drug pricing has consistently been a top issue for Americans, year after year, including the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans."
The Senate's top Democrat added that the plan will grant the government power to regulate the prices of some of the most expensive drugs on the market and redesign the Medicare drug benefit so it limits out-of-pocket costs for seniors to $2,000 per year.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat and key swing vote in the Senate, praised the compromise in a statement later Tuesday afternoon. Her endorsement represents a win for party leadership that has in recent weeks struggled to corral a handful of holdouts to sign off on critical aspects of the broader $1.75 trillion plan.
"The Senator welcomes a new agreement on a historic, transformative Medicare drug negotiation plan that will reduce out-of-pocket costs for seniors – ensuring drug prices cannot rise faster than inflation – save taxpayer dollars, and protect innovation to ensure Arizonans and Americans continue to have access to life-saving medications, and new cures and therapeutics," her office said in a statement.
Sinema also specifically thanked two House Democrats, Reps. Scott Peters, Calif., and Kurt Schrader, Ore., for helping to design the compromise legislation. Both Schrader and Peters had opposed a plan earlier in the year to grant more sweeping negotiation powers to Medicare.
The rosy remarks from Schumer and Sinema came just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the party could reconcile its disagreements "by the end of the day" and take a vote on the safety net package by week's end.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to leave Washington for recess at the end of the week and return Nov. 15.
Still, Democrats have a long way to go before sending the Build Back Better legislation to President Joe Biden's desk. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., remains skeptical of the size of the bill and has clashed with more progressive peers over certain Medicare expansions and climate initiatives.