Government

Chuck Grassley wants to work with Joe Biden on prescription drug pricing

They worked together on budget freeze proposal in 1984

Sen. Chuck Grassley arrives for a March 20 Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Iowa Republican sa
Sen. Chuck Grassley arrives for a March 20 Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Iowa Republican said Wednesday he looks forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden on reining in prescription drug prices. (Associated Press)

Joe Biden will be the ninth president Sen. Chuck Grassley has served with, and the Iowa Republican is giving him the same treatment as the previous eight.

“Not once have I called any of them to congratulate them,” he said about the Republicans and Democratic presidents during his 46 years in Congress. “So why would I call Biden and congratulate him?”

He hasn’t spoken to Biden since his former Senate colleague from Delaware won the popular vote and Electoral College vote, but the Iowa Republican said Wednesday he’s willing to work with Biden.

In fact, he has a couple of issues in mind.

Grassley has worked with Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden on legislation to rein in prescription drug prices through the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. It was approved on a bipartisan Finance Committee vote of 19-9.

Although Grassley had support from the Trump White House, he was unable to get Senate leaders — GOP and Democratic — to agree to move the bill forward.

He hopes that will change in a Biden administration.

“I know very much that this is high on Biden’s agenda, and I can work with him on that,” Grassley told reporters, adding that he can “work very closely” with Biden to advance the plan.

The prescription drug act is the “best path forward for lower prescription drug costs while preserving innovation,” Grassley said in an earlier statement when President Donald Trump addressed the issue in an executive order.

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He expects the bill to be challenged by “Big Pharma” in the courts, “which is why legislative action is best for making lasting changes to lower drug costs.”

Grassley recalled that he and Biden and Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum worked on an amendment in 1984 to freeze the federal budget for one year to rein in spending. Attempts to reduce spending by eliminating agencies or programs drew broad opposition from people who worried their programs and agencies might be next, he said.

“Our philosophy was that if you just froze everything, ... it saved a tremendous amount of money, but it maybe would have been a pattern that could have been followed,” Grassley said.

The idea may still have merit, but Grassley conceded it’s not likely Biden will get behind it again.

The prescription drug legislation, however, is a “very realistic example” of an area he can cooperate with the president-elect.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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