The Senate Parliamentarian on Saturday ruled that Democrats must remove a provision aimed at prescription drug rebates from the $740 billion health care, climate, tax and spending package ahead of an expected showdown as the chamber takes up the bill over the weekend.
Elizabeth MacDonough, who has been working overtime to conduct a non-partisan scrub of the far-reaching legislation to ensure it meets the Senate’s complex budget reconciliation rules, said Democrats must remove provisions that force drugmakers to pay rebates for products they sell to private insurers if their prices exceed inflation.
Drug manufacturers would still have to pay penalties for those drugs bought by Medicare.
Other provisions targeting drug prices, including measures enabling Medicare to negotiate drug costs and capping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs, survived the scrub.
“This is a major victory for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a statement. “While there was one unfortunate ruling in that the inflation rebate is more limited in scope, the overall program remains intact and we are one step closer to finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans.”
The curb on the Democrats’ proposal to penalize drug companies who raise costs on private insurers beyond inflation reduces the $288 billion in long-term savings Democrats had touted as part of the bill.
The Senate is expected to begin considering the bill later Saturday as Democrats rush to pass a central item of the Biden administration’s agenda item before departing for the Senate‘s August recess.
Republicans plan to put up a tough fight against the bill through what’s known as a “vote-a-rama” — an hours-long process that forces the full chamber to consider changes to the budget legislation. Part of the strategy is to put Democrats on the defensive on a range of hot-button topics.
At the end of the votes on amendments, which could start as early as this weekend, the majority party passes a final amendment negating any previous one that was passed.
Senate Republicans have pledged to make the process as tough as possible in an unlikely, last-ditch bid to pressure enough of their Democratic colleagues to abandon the bill.