November 30, 2023

Republicans mounted a successful challenge to remove part of the Democrats’ climate and health care legislation that would have capped the price of insulin at $35.

Democrats hoped to include a cap on the price of insulin in their proposed legislation called The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Along with provisions to curb climate change, Democrats hoped to use the legislation to lower prescription drug costs .

But Senate Rep. Elizabeth MacDonough issued guidance saying the price cap does not comply with budget agreement rules, which allow the Senate to pass legislation by a simple majority. Democrats have only 50 seats in the Senate and therefore wanted to avoid a Republican challenger to their legislation.

In turn, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised a procedural issue about the insulin aspect, saying it violates the Congressional Budget Act, which governs what could included in a reconciliation bill. That required it to get 60 votes to stay on the bill.

However, seven Republicans voted to keep the provision in the Democratic legislation, three short of what was needed to preserve the provision, along with every Democrat. Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska all joined the Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, urged Republicans to keep it in law.

“We have an opportunity here to make a difference and permanently cap insulin at $35 a month,” he said. “It will save money, it will save lives. It shouldn’t be difficult to vote.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the lead sponsor of the insulin cap, told reporters before the vote that the Senate was to blame, not the congressman.

“That’s up to the Senate tonight. It’s not up to the MP, no matter how she sees it,” he said on Saturday night before votes on the amendments began.

The vote to repeal the amendment came toward the end of a “ram-vote,” which occurs during budget reconciliation when senators vote on a series of amendments, usually considered for ten minutes apiece. But the vote on the Lower Inflation Act moved at a much slower pace as many senators did not stay at their desks.

Democrats for the most part presented a united front, even opposing legislation they supported as a means to keep their caucus united and not alienate any members.

The move also comes after the Senate lawmaker issued guidance saying part of the legislation that would have required drug companies to cut Medicare if they raised drug prices higher than inflation did not comply with budget reconciliation rules.

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