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Pelosi Backs Down After House Progressives Push to Strengthen Drug Pricing Bill

The bill now doubles the number of drugs whose prices will be negotiated under the plan and bans price-gouging.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reacts to a reporter on Thursday, December 5, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, faced with a united front of progressive Democrats pushing back against a drug pricing bill seen as insufficient, blinked on Tuesday and handed her party’s left flank a rare victory.

“This is what happens when progressives in Congress, backed by the grassroots, use their power to push for real change,” political advocacy group Indivisible said on Twitter.

The legislation now doubles the number of drugs whose prices will be negotiated under the plan from 25 to 50 in the second year of implementation and bans price-gouging on drug pricing for 150 million Americans with private healthcare plans, according to the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

Pelosi, a California Democrat, relented on keeping progressive amendments out of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, after the CPC made clear it would stop the bill in committee and not let it reach the floor unless lefty fixes were allowed.

“We need to flex our muscles,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told reporters as the compromise was still being hammered out.

According to Politico, the bill advanced Tuesday night:

The House Rules Committee later Tuesday night approved, 8-3, the rule that sets up debate on the bill, putting it on track for floor consideration. The panel also permitted a separate vote on Republicans’ bill, a measure GOP lawmakers have championed this week as a bipartisan alternative.

Progressives in Congress welcomed the deal.

“This is a huge win, and it shows what we can do when we stick together and all push hard for the American people,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the CPC and author of one of the amendments reinserted into the bill, said in a statement.

Progressive advocacy group Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson, in a statement, celebrated the win.

“Big Pharma has been revealed as a paper tiger, and they should be running scared,” said Lawson.

While the bill has next to no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate‚ the message sent by progressives to House leadership is clear, tweeted American Prospect journalist David Dayen, who wrote about the conflict between Pelosi and the CPC with The Intercept’s Ryan Grim on Monday.

“The key here is more about how progressives forced Pelosi to the table,” Dayen said. “She wanted to ignore them entirely.”

However, Dayen added, the result is far from perfect.

“There is one good win and one OK win,” Dayen said. “The uninsured still get no help as far as I can tell.”

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, House progressives had the suppport of 2020 Democratic preisdential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Masss.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“I support their efforts,” Sanders tweeted of the CPC’s position on the bill Monday.

Pocan, the CPC co-chair, said on Twitter that the compromise from House leadership proves that the progressive wing of the Democratic party is ascendant.

“Our movement is STRONG,” said Pocan.

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