Fighting Back: “We can save lives by passing the Elijah Cummings #LowerDrugCostsNow Act”

 
 

The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida outlining the provisions of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, H.R. 3, which would finally allow the federal government to negotiate prices with drug companies.

(In this week’s address, Congresswoman Donna Shalala discussed House Democrats’ sweeping legislation to tackle out-of-control prescription drug prices: H.R. 3, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act. )

In the United States today, a disease or chronic condition can force you into bankruptcy, or require you to choose between paying for medicine and paying for food or rent.

H.R. 3 makes reforms to reduce drug prices, to keep cost hikes to no more than inflation and to limit out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, on employer plans and private health insurance.

To help secure these patient protections, we will require our government to negotiate prices directly with drug companies. […]

“Only drug companies get to come to Medicare and set their own prices. Hospitals don’t get to do that; doctors don’t get to do that; home health care agencies don’t get to do that; medical equipment providers don’t get to do that.

“Negotiation is a hallmark of good governance and a standard feature of government policy. We negotiate for everything, including military equipment and work with contractors.

It is only drug companies that are able to write themselves a blank check from taxpayers. Our legislation ends that practice.

(CSPAN link to Weekly Democratic Address: here)

Transcript: Congresswoman Donna Shalala Delivers Weekly Democratic Address

“Hello, I’m Donna Shalala.

“I represent Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

“Only a few times in our history has Congress come together to pass legislation to dramatically improve the lives of the American people: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Medicare’s drug benefit and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.
“We changed lives. We saved lives.

“Now, we continue to work For The People with H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

“We are working to pass this bill into law so it can join these momentous commitments.

“We pay more for our prescription drugs than any other country on Earth.

“We have made incredible advances in medical science and developed cures not only for our own people, but also for the rest of the world.

“And yet, even when our own researchers and scientists have dedicated their lives to creating lifesaving drugs, too many of our fellow Americans can’t afford to benefit from their brilliance.

“In the United States today, a disease or chronic condition can force you into bankruptcy, or require you to choose between paying for medicine and paying for food or rent.

“H.R. 3 makes reforms to reduce drug prices, to keep cost hikes to no more than inflation and to limit out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, on employer plans and private health insurance.

“To help secure these patient protections, we will require our government to negotiate prices directly with drug companies.

“I served as Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years in the Clinton Administration. I repeatedly asked for the ability to negotiate with drug companies.

“Only drug companies get to come to Medicare and set their own prices. Hospitals don’t get to do that; doctors don’t get to do that; home health care agencies don’t get to do that; medical equipment providers don’t get to do that.

“Negotiation is a hallmark of good governance and a standard feature of government policy. We negotiate for everything, including military equipment and work with contractors.

“It is only drug companies that are able to write themselves a blank check from taxpayers. Our legislation ends that practice.

“Now is the time for us to join every other country on Earth in allowing our government to bargain for better prices and to put a cap on our out-of-pocket costs.

“As citizens, we have always been willing to subsidize poorer countries. But subsidizing England, and France, and Canada, and Germany, and Australia, and Japan, Sweden, Norway and Denmark is not our responsibility.

“We are not their deep pockets. We should not pay substantially more for the same medicines than people in those countries.

“The current, broken system is costing our families and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars. We must not accept this waste or this unfairness any longer.

“Our bill is a solid plan to reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for every American, and it will create huge savings for taxpayers.

“These savings will allow us to make significant investments in the extraordinary biomedical science institutions that foster innovation, such as the National Institutes of Health and, of course, our great research universities.

“This bill will expand our capacity for innovation and make drug companies more efficient. H.R. 3 is a historic step forward to make all of our lives better.

“Thank you, and God bless America.”

Any bolding has been added.

~

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference from Thursday:

Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference

Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.

Today is a very sad day for us, as we all are waking to the sad news of the passing of our dear friend, revered and respected colleague, Congressman, Mr. Chairman, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, my brother in Baltimore. He was, in the Congress, Elijah was considered a North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity.

He lived the American Dream. In his own family, his parents were sharecroppers. He was Phi Beta Kappa from Howard, and a Chairman, very important Committee in the Congress of the United States. He lived the American Dream and he wanted it for everyone else.

He spoke with unsurpassed clarity and moral integrity when he spoke on the Floor. I had the just coincidental opportunity to be at breakfast with someone who served with him in the State Legislature in Maryland and they said when Elijah Cummings would stand up in the State Legislature, in the House of Delegates, as it is called there, the room would fall silent as everyone wanted to hear what Elijah has to say. And that is, of course, what was the case in Congress, in his Committee and in the country.

He used to always say, ‘Our children are our living messengers to a future we will never see.’ So, he wanted to be sure that that future was going to be better for them and that they would bring with them our values.

In that regard, in terms of a better future, I’m so proud that this morning Richie Neal announced in the mark-up – in the hearing, the hearing that they were having on H.R. 3, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, that he was suggesting to name the bill for Elijah Cummings.

So appropriate, because Elijah was a fighter for lowering the cost of prescription drugs, reaching across the aisle to do so. He always strove to reach across the aisle and treat all of our colleagues with respect and even had dialogue with the President for a while on this subject. So, it would be very appropriate that H.R. 3 will now be the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now legislation, whatever the formal title will be.

It’s very sad, very sad for all of us. We’ve all lost a friend. I’m devastated by the loss. We conveyed our condolences of our Caucus to Maya, his dear wife, this morning. And, she said what we all knew: he just fought to the end. But, that’s the way he was, not only on his personal health, but what he believed in in the Congress of the United States.

So, we’re back now after our District Work Period where Members all over the country were part of a drumbeat for H.R. 3, for our For The People agenda. Our first, number one, was to lower the cost of prescription drugs. They presented H.R. 3, heard feedback, and we are benefiting with two mark-ups this week: one in Energy and Commerce, the other in Education and Labor – the hearing in Ways and Means this week and then the mark-up next week. And, then, we’ll be well on our way to reconciling different versions and bringing something to the Floor.

I think it’s really important to note that since the break, toward the end of the break, we did get this Congressional Budget Office, the CBO score of $345 billion in savings just in the Medicare Part D part of the bill. Other savings, $158 billion in savings for family households, 50 – $46 billion in rebates and the rest.

So, the savings are considerable and the Congress will decide how they will be – some of it will be reinvested into innovation at the National Institutes of Health, perhaps in community health centers across the country, in expanded benefits for Medicare, visual, hearing, dental, perhaps, that’s up to the Committees, we’ll hear back from them, and just trying to lower the cost to the community.

Bobby Scott’s Committee is marking up this bill, but, as many of you know, earlier in the week, we announced his College Affordability Act, and we’re very proud of the response from the Members on that, and that will be making college less expensive.

We’re still at work on the U.S.‑Mexico‑Canada Trade Agreement and making progress every day on our path to yes, but we’re not there yet. As soon as we can get the assurances from the Administration and from the other – everyone involved that there will be enforceability of some of the provisions of the legislation, that it will really be an improvement on the current NAFTA, then we’ll be able to proceed. But, I’m optimistic about that.

I’m still hoping that – and this came up when we were focused on the For The People agenda: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America, cleaner government, that was our agenda in the campaign – one of our priorities in this session has been to reduce the risk of gun violence in our country.

It’s now been 232 days since we sent our bipartisan legislation to the Senate. Every day about a hundred people die from gun violence, nearly half of them children up to the age of teenagers. My colleague, Frederica Wilson, when I was in Florida during the break, gave me this bracelet made from a bullet and the orange color of gun violence prevention. So, we’re not going away until we get legislation passed to reduce gun violence in our country.

As you know, this has been a week of some issues that relate to our foreign engagement. I was very proud of the work on the Floor of Congress to associate ourselves with the democratic aspirations of the young people of Hong Kong. I’ve been working with now three generations of Hong Kong democratic leaders just for the Chinese regime to obey the Basic Law under which Hong Kong was to exist, One Country, Two Systems, living under the Basic Law, which made certain guarantees that are not being lived up to.

But, Congress came through this week, spoke very clearly in a bipartisan way about our support for that. Now we’re eager that we have bipartisan support in the Senate, too, so hopefully that will come up soon there.

As you know, yesterday on the Floor, 354 Members voted in a bipartisan way to oppose the President’s dangerous decision in regard to Syria. By two to one Republicans voted to oppose the President’s action. There were only 60 votes [not] in favor of the legislation.

The legislation would have called for Turkey to use restraint, for us to help our friends, to be a trustworthy ally to Kurds, especially in humanitarian needs now that they’re being bombed by the Turks and being attacked by the Turks. I also called for the President to show a clear plan for how Americans will be protected from ISIS, which has been further unleashed. Green light to the Turks, actions taken that renege on our handshake with the Kurds, and now, and now, we need to have a plan to deal with what happens with ISIS.

As you know, that was the subject of conversation yesterday at the White House. I also pointed out to the President I had concerns that all roads seem to lead to Putin. The Russians had been trying to get a foothold in the Middle East for a very long time, unsuccessfully, and now the President has given them the opportunity with the Kurds reaching out to them for support in Syria.

They have – the Russians were the beneficiaries of any withholding of assistance or encouragement to Ukraine. Again, Putin benefits. The Russians benefited, Putin did. The President placed some doubt about our commitment to NATO right from the start of his Administration. All roads lead to Putin.

Then the President said, ‘Well, the reason I’m taking the troops out of Syria is because I promised in the campaign to bring the troops home.’ My question to him was, ‘Is Saudi Arabia home? Is Saudi Arabia home? Why are our troops going to Saudi Arabia if you promised to bring them home?’ He said, ‘Well, the Saudi Arabians are paying for it.’ Really? We’re putting our troops in harm’s way for Saudi Arabia because they’re paying? It just didn’t add up.

But, what it did do was cause a meltdown on the part of the President because he was unhappy with those questions. And, it was unfortunate because we really went – we were invited to the meeting. The President started off the meeting by saying, ‘I don’t know who asked for this meeting. I didn’t.’ And we’re like, well, then, well, let’s proceed anyway, and we had hoped – our real mission was to find out what the plan was.

Leader Schumer was very forceful in that discussion with the President on what is the plan. ‘My plan is to protect America.’ So that’s a goal, that’s not a plan. What is the plan for us to be protected from ISIS now that some of them have been unleashed in Syria because of the green light that the President gave the Turks and reneging on our trustworthiness as an ally with the Kurds who had been our friends? So, for these and other reasons that was most unfortunate.

On a separate front of all of that, I’m very proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff. Again, this is so solemn. None of us came to Congress to impeach a President. That’s not what we come here to do. And any such actions are to be taken very solemnly, seriously, and, in my view, prayerfully.

It isn’t a unifying thing for the country to have to go through this, but we do have to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, our democracy, and our republic. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘A republic, if we can keep it.’ Well, it is our fight to keep it. As I’ve said to you before, the times have found us, to do just that.

So, I’m very proud of the work that Adam Schiff is doing. And, this isn’t about politics or partisanship, it’s about patriotism for our country. And, I value the way he is conducting this with equal time on all sides for the questioning that are there. You’ve heard from him. We were here together when he presented how it is proceeding.

He also sent a letter to Members yesterday, which is in the public domain. I call it to your attention in case you have some questions about the professionalism and the fairness with which these hearings are being held.

***

Any questions?

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

THIS was an important point made during the press conference:

Q:At what point might you say let’s just let the voters decide?

Speaker Pelosi. The voters are not going to decide whether we honor our oath of office. They already decided that in the last election.

~

Speaker Pelosi Announces Chairman Elijah E. Cummings Will Lie in State in National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol

October 18, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Chairman Elijah E. Cummings will lie in state in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol on Thursday, October 24.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland served in the House for more than 20 years and was Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. As Speaker Pelosi said after his passing, “In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose. His principled leadership as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.”

A formal ceremony will be held Thursday morning, which will be open to Members of Congress, the Cummings family and invited guests. Following the memorial service, there will be a public viewing. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

~

On Donald Trump’s coddling of genocidal dictators and his abandonment of our allies this past week.

Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement on President Trump’s Reversal on Sanctioning Turkey

October 17, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer issued this statement after the President reversed his decision to impose sanctions against Turkish government officials:

“President Trump is flailing. The President’s decision to reverse sanctions against Turkey for brutally attacking our Kurdish partners in exchange for a sham ceasefire seriously undermines the credibility of America’s foreign policy and sends a dangerous message to our allies and adversaries alike that our word cannot be trusted.

“President Erdogan has given up nothing, and President Trump has given him everything. The Turks have stated that ‘this is not a ceasefire,’ and made clear that they ‘will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave’ – referring to the courageous Kurdish fighters who have suffered nearly 11,000 casualties in our fight to defeat ISIS. This agreement also does nothing to stop thousands of ISIS prisoners from escaping, and shows the President’s complete lack of strategy to defeat ISIS. To say that Turkey and Syria will guard the prisoners is outrageous and puts our homeland security at risk. ISIS is still a threat, certainly now more than before President Trump gave Erdogan the green light to invade Syria.

“President Trump unleashed a further escalation of chaos and insecurity in Syria that has left dozens of innocent civilians dead, displaced hundreds of thousands more and invited the resurgence of ISIS. The only beneficiaries of the President’s policies are our adversaries: ISIS, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Iran. Today’s decision further makes the argument that President Trump doesn’t see Putin as the danger he is to our country.

“Yesterday’s overwhelming bipartisan 354-60 vote in the House to oppose the President’s decision and demand a clear ISIS strategy yesterday was an important step, and the Senate should do the same immediately. Next week, the House will pass a strong, bipartisan sanctions package to work to reverse the humanitarian disaster that President Trump unleashed in Syria. Our servicemembers, our allies and our partners all suffering from the Syrian conflict deserve smart, strong and sane leadership from Washington.

(Bolding and underlining added)

~

  1 comment for “Fighting Back: “We can save lives by passing the Elijah Cummings #LowerDrugCostsNow Act”

  1. JanF
    October 19, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Speaker Pelosi, Thursday, on Elijah Cummings’ passing (bolding added):

    “The people of Baltimore, the U.S. Congress and America have lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth: our beloved Chairman Elijah Cummings. I am personally devastated by his passing.

    “In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose. His principled leadership as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government, and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.

    “As a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he was always fighting for his district and for the state of Maryland. He was a powerful voice for building the infrastructure of America and creating good-paying jobs. As a Member of the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors, he took great pride in Maryland’s role in our national security.

    “Chairman Cummings’ story was the story of America: a sharecroppers’ son who dedicated his life to advancing justice, respecting human dignity and ending discrimination. He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it, and he dedicated his life to advancing the values that safeguard our republic: justice, equality, liberty, fairness.

    “Earlier this year, Chairman Cummings asked us, ‘When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?’ May Chairman Cummings’ strength guide us as we carry on his work to honor the oath and protect our democracy.

    In the Congress, we will miss his wisdom, his warm friendship and his great humanity. In Baltimore, we will miss our champion. May it be a comfort to his wife Maya, his three children and Chairman Cummings’ entire family that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.”

    Yesterday, she wrote an editorial opinion in the Washington Post:

    Elijah’s leadership truly strengthened America, and his life and legacy will continue to inspire us all to go forth in a way that is worthy of the oath of office that we take to the Constitution, worthy of the vision of our Founders and worthy of the aspirations of our children. For, as he often said, “Children are the living messengers we send to the future we will never see.”

    Indeed.

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