WASHINGTON — After repeated efforts to partner with the Trump administration to make good on campaign promises to lower Medicare drug prices, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings on Wednesday signaled impatience with the White House by unveiling legislation that would give the government negotiating power with pharmaceutical companies.
“Some of you may remember back in February when President (Donald) Trump held a press conference and specifically mentioned me,” Cummings said at a news conference outside the United States Capitol. “(Trump) said he invited me to the White House to talk about working together on lowering drug prices. But then, he suggested that I was avoiding him because it was ‘bad politics.’ Of course, that was not accurate.”
“I wanted to hand this bill to President Trump personally and ask him for his support face-to-face,” Cummings continued.
Standing with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, Cummings said their Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act would allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower costs for of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies under Medicare Part D.
On the campaign trail, Trump was vocal in his opposition to what he said was the “outrageous” costs of drugs for older patients and pledged to work to develop a bidding process that would bring prices “way, way, way down.”
The lawmakers urged Trump to make good on that promise, citing polls from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation that show that approximately 92 percent of Americans support “allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications for people on Medicare.”
“When you ran for president, you talked about the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. You said ‘they are getting away with murder.’ And you know what? You were right,” Sanders said, addressing Trump. Sanders last year unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president.
“But the campaign is over, and we need him to join us in taking on the pharmaceutical industry,” the senator said.
Cummings, who is the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, joined Welch in their third letter since April to Trump expressing “profound disappointment” at his inaction despite what they said was their repeated efforts at establishing a partnership.
“The truth is that we have made every possible effort to collaborate with you in good faith for the better part of this year,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, our efforts were met with radio silence.”
On March 8, Cummings and Welch met with Trump and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to go over a draft of proposed legislation together. Cummings stated that the president “seemed enthusiastic” and even called him afterwards to reiterate support for the legislation.
“Unfortunately, since that time, absolutely nothing has happened,” Cummings said.
“I know there have been a lot of distractions with the president – a lot of distractions. But this is what the American people want us to be working on,” Cummings continued. “They are sick of the tweeting, the insults, the infighting, and all the rest of it. They want us to work together to lower drug prices, and they want action now.”
“We are doing our part,” Cummings concluded. “We hope President Trump will do his.”