Republicans back prescription drug bill they falsely claim is 'bipartisan'

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Zero Democrats have cosponsored the legislation.

Numerous Republican House members have touted their support for H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, as an alternative to the prescription drug pricing bill the House of Representatives passed in December.

While they have claimed H.R. 19 is bipartisan, however, not a single Democrat in Congress publicly supports the GOP bill.

According to an official congressional database, H.R. 19 has 146 cosponsors. No Democrats are listed among them. The House's sole Independent member, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, is also absent from the list.

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In a Dec. 12 press release, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MN) attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi for pushing "needlessly partisan legislation" on prescription drugs. He boasted of his decision to back H. R. 19, which he claimed had "strong bipartisan support."

The bill Walberg attacked, H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed the House of Representatives in December with bipartisan support.

When asked about the discrepancy via email, a spokesperson for Walberg defended his description of the GOP bill as "bipartisan" because it is "filled with bipartisan solutions." The spokesperson said it was "an odd argument" to claim the legislation was anything other than bipartisan.

The spokesperson pointed to the December vote on H.R. 3 — the Lower Drug Costs Now Act — stating H.R. 19 had been offered as an amendment in the nature of a substitute on the House floor. That amendment had garnered a handful of votes, eight total, from Democrats. However, none of those Democrats, or any other Democrats, subsequently cosponsored H.R. 19 as standalone legislation.

When asked why Walberg had called H.R. 3 "partisan," even though it passed the House with support from Republicans and Democrats, the spokesperson said Walberg stood by his comment.

Walberg is not alone in claiming the partisan bill has phantom bipartisan support:

  • Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) falsely claimed in December, "The Lower Costs, More Cures Act has support from both sides of the aisle."
  • Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) described H.R. 19 as "bipartisan legislation" in a press release on Dec. 9.
  • Rep. Darin LaHood's (R-IL) office stated Lahood is "a cosponsor of the bipartisan alternative, H.R. 19 — The Lower Costs, More Cures Act" in a release on Dec. 12.

Green's, Keller's, and LaHood's offices did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) expressed support for H.R. 19, although he was not an official cosponsor. Emmer falsely claimed it was "a bipartisan bill that would ensure affordable medications and support innovation."

While the Republican-only bill contains some provisions that could impact the cost of prescription drugs, Health Affairs noted in December that the bill falls short of the House-passed bill when it comes to keeping the cost of prescriptions drugs low for consumers.

"H.R. 19 does not do enough to lower costs because it doesn't include provisions to allow Medicare to negotiate prices," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in an email Tuesday.

Anne Shoup, communications director for Protect Our Care, a progressive health care organization, called the Republican prescription drug bill "a joke of a bill meant to provide political cover for Republicans."

H.R. 19, Shoup said in an email, "is designed to make it appear as though Republicans are taking actions on the high cost of prescription drugs without including anything in their bill that would anger" those in the pharma industry who might otherwise support them.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.