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Monthly Legislative Newsletter: April 2021
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What’s Next for President Biden? 

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden revealed his next big priority: The American Jobs Plan as he looks to make another big legislative push after passing the American Rescue Plan via budget reconciliation earlier in March. The American Jobs Plan contains many provisions focused on the climate crisis and building up the Nation’s infrastructure, providing a potential framework for the next budget reconciliation bill. 

Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have voiced their opposition to the plan even before it was released. They hope to campaign on the tax and spending increases that are proposed in the plan during the 2022 midterm elections, with the goal of retaking the majority in both the House and the Senate. Because of the opposition of Republicans, the Biden administration will likely once again have to use the budget reconciliation process to pass any sort of infrastructure legislation. 

Budget reconciliation will require united support from Democrats all across the ideological spectrum, with some progressive Democrats calling for $2 trillion in climate change investments alone. Additionally, each member will have different and varying priorities that they will want included, which will likely lead to a drawn out negotiating process that will not have the speed and urgency of the American Rescue Plan. 

While it is expected that infrastructure will now be the Biden administration’s main focus, that does not mean that social policy such as health care will go out the window. It is expected that President Biden will unveil his health care plan sometime in April, making it entirely possible that major health care policy will be attached to any budget reconciliation legislation. 

What Will President Biden Do About Drug Prices? 

According to a recent Politico Pro analysis, drug prices have risen over the last few years even though it has been a popular campaign issue for members of both parties, including for both President’s Trump and Biden. List prices only rose 4.5% for 832 branded and generic drugs in January 2021, compared to a 6% rise in January 2019, and a 5.2% rise in January 2018. However, while the prices continue to rise, the rate of increase slowed significantly throughout the Trump presidency due to his rhetoric and actions against the pharmaceutical industry. President Trump issued a number of executive actions that sought to lower drug prices. However, none of his proposals made it over the finish line, they were struck down by the courts or put on pause by the Biden administration. 

Pharmaceutical companies have continually stated that any significant drug pricing reform will lead to slowing their ability to innovate new medicines and treatments. This argument has been consistent since drug pricing reform was put on the table. 

President Biden has yet to release his own plan on how to lower drug prices, despite using the issue to campaign on during the Presidential election. As the next COVID-19 relief package draws closer, we can expect the conversation on drug pricing legislation to ratchet up between Congress and the administration. 

You can view the full Politico Pro analysis HERE with a Politico Pro subscription. If you do not have a subscription, please don’t hesitate to reach out and PRG will provide you with a copy. 

H.R. 3 – Not Dead Yet 

House Democrats are planning a “kitchen sink” approach for the next budget reconciliation package. This could possibly include infrastructure, climate change provisions, immigration reform, and drug pricing legislation.  

House Democrats are talking about including H.R. 3 – Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, the House Democrat’s sweeping drug pricing legislation from the 116th Congress, in the next reconciliation bill. Should this legislation be included, it would be a huge win for Democrats and President Biden. Additionally, passing this sweeping legislation would allow Democrats to campaign on taking action against rising drug prices during the 2022 midterm elections. However, even if House Democrats can’t get all Democrats on board to support H.R. 3, there are a number of other more moderate drug pricing proposals that could potentially be included. 

Below is a quick refresher as to what is included in H.R. 3. 

H.R. 3- Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act 

President Biden’s Health and Human Services Leadership Takes Shape 

President Biden’s pick for HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, March 18, 2021. His confirmation makes him the first Latino HHS Secretary. The confirmation vote was narrow, with Becerra being confirmed favorably 50-49 with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voting with the Democrats. Republicans generally did not support Becerra due to his views on abortion rights and lack of experience in the health care space. 

In addition to Secretary Becerra, a number of top health officials were confirmed throughout the month of March. Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s pick for Surgeon General, was confirmed and then subsequently sworn in on March 25th. Murthy previously served as Surgeon General in the Obama administration. 

Dr. Rachel Levine, President Biden’s pick for Assistant Secretary of Health, was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 24th by a vote of 52-48, with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voting with the Democrats. She is the first transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate in the Nation’s history.