Democrats Will Introduce Medicare, Stem Cell Legislation
House Democrats plan to address the Medicare prescription drug benefit bill on Jan. 12, the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 1/4). The legislation would provide the HHS secretary with broad flexibility in negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the legislation.
According to CongressDaily, the HHS secretary would only have to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications with "outlandish" costs to meet the requirements of the bill. Under the legislation, the HHS secretary could not restrict access to certain medications for Medicare beneficiaries.
The bill would require the HHS secretary to report his progress in negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on prices for medications to Congress on June 1 and six months later (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/4).
House Democrats plan to avoid the committee process and limit the ability of Republicans to amend the legislation. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) likely will "make it nearly impossible for drug makers, health insurance companies and lobbies to stop the bill from passing," according to The Hill.
Prospects for passage of similar legislation in the Senate are less certain.
Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last year voted against a similar bill, and he "has not endorsed the leadership's plan," The Hill reports.
Bush and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt also oppose the legislation (Young, The Hill, 1/4).
House Democrats on Friday plan to introduce bills that would reduce restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Wednesday. House Democrats have promised to pass both bills within the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, which begins on Thursday (Ferrechio, CQ Today, 1/3).
House Democrats plan to address the embryonic stem cell research bill on Jan. 11 (Weisman, Washington Post, 1/4).
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Thursday plans to introduce the legislation in the Senate, although the Senate might wait to address the bill until late January or early February, Harkin aides said.
President Bush vetoed similar legislation last year (Norman, Des Moines Register, 1/4).
According to CQ Today, because Democrats "have nowhere near the two-thirds majority of both chambers needed to override a presidential veto, ... they will have to decide fairly quick whether they want to enact laws or make political points" (Kady, CQ Today, 1/2).