News Local/State

Davis, Londrigan Fall Along Party Lines As House Passes Prescription Price Bill

Bottles of prescription medications.

Airman Valerie Monroy/U.S. Air Force

A bill backed by Democrats to control prescription drug prices passed the House Thursday on a near party-line vote of 230 to 192, with just two Republicans voting for it. Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis joined the majority of his fellow Republicans in opposing it. Meanwhile, Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who’s making her second attempt to unseat Davis, says she would have voted for it.

Londrigan praised House Resolution 3, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, in a Thursday teleconference with reporters. The Springfield Democrat is running in the March 2020 primary against Stefanie Smith of Urbana for a second chance to challenge Davis in the November election. Londrigan lost a close election to the Republican incumbent in 2018.

Londrigan said HR 3 would help curb high prescription costs, “by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, while ensuring seniors never lose access to the prescription drugs they need. And Congressman Davis’ opposition to this bill is expected but it is still really disappointing.”

Davis, a Taylorville Republican, says the provisions for negotiating drug prices for Medicare is a step towards a socialist healthcare system, one he says limits drug access in other countries.

“I cannot vote for a bill that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said will mean fewer new prescription drugs to treat or cure cancer, Alzheimer's, ALS, and so many other deadly diseases,” said Davis in a statement posted on his congressional Facebook page.

Davis and other Republicans cite a CBO analysis of HR 3, which concludes the Medicare price negotiations would result in lower drug prices, but leave less money available for pharmaceutical companies to spend on research and development, resulting in fewer new drugs being developed in the future.

But Londrigan dismissed the Republican argument as a “red herring.” She contended that the impact on the development of new drugs would be lessened, because a good share of current research in the U.S. is already taxpayer funded, through the National Institutes of Health.

“As well, HR 3 provides a provision for reinvesting in innovation, with the savings from negotiating down the drug prices, reinvesting billions of dollars back into the N-I-H,” said Londrigan.

As an alternative to HR 3, Davis supports a Republican-backed measure, House Resolution 19, known as the Lower Costs More Cures Act. The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, contains more than 40 provisions from both sides of the aisle. They include price transparency measures, a cap on out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare Part D benefits and elimination of its “donut hole” coverage gap, and reform measures for Medicaid and the generic drug market.

While HR 3 passed the House Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to block it from coming to a vote in the Senate.

But Tiffany Muller, president of the political action committee End Citizens United, says the House was right to approve HR 3 over its Republican alternative, even if the bill is stalled in the Senate.

“The fact that Mitch McConnell is sitting on 450 bills and won't bring any of them up to a vote is no reason for the house not to do their job,” said Muller, who appeared with Londrigan during her teleconference, and gave her group’s endorsement to her campaign. “It's a reason for Mitch McConnell to start doing his."

But Davis says HR 19 is “a better, bipartisan bill that isn’t just messaging, but a bill that was negotiated between Republicans and Democrats that could actually be signed into law if Democrats in the House set politics aside.”

However, the Walden bill, offered Thursday as an amendment to HR 3, was defeated in the House on a mostly party line vote of 201 to 223. Eight Democrats voted for the measure, while two Republicans voted against it.