Mitch McConnell hijacks bipartisan bill to block Democrats’ prescription drug bill

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will not support a bipartisan domestic manufacturing bill if Democrats try to cut prescription drug prices and tax the wealthy, the Kentucky Republican announced Thursday. .

Bipartisan House and Senate negotiators hammered out a compromise on a bill to boost the semiconductor chip industry after each chamber passed its own version. The Senate bill was called the United States Competitiveness and Innovation Act, or USICA.

“Let me be perfectly clear: There will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats pursue a partisan reconciliation bill,” McConnell said. tweeted Thursday.

McConnell’s threat comes just as Democrats made progress on a new budget reconciliation bill to replace the stalled Big Back Better Act. The centerpiece of the legislation would be a provision giving Medicare more power to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers to lower prescription drug prices.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) have nearly finalized a prescription drug deal, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. NBC News first reported details of the plan on Thursday.

But prescription drugs would only be part of the bill — the other main elements under consideration would address climate change and partially reverse tax cuts for the wealthy that Republicans signed into law in 2017. Democrats have dropped a number of social policies in Build Back Better that Manchin opposed. .

The tax coin will be difficult for Democrats because they need all 50 members of their caucus to agree, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) has said she won’t support higher tax rates .

It’s unclear what the Flea Bill has to do with the Reconciliation Bill; McConnell appears to be doing a raw power move – something he’s been known to do from time to time. Just a week ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the federal right to abortion. The court wouldn’t have made the ruling if McConnell hadn’t engineered his 6-3 Republican majority by refusing to allow President Barack Obama to appoint a judge in an election year, then rushing to confirm a Donald Trump’s candidate shortly before the 2020 election.

McConnell is not part of the reconciliation talks, but his threat to delay the chip bill appears designed to give moderate Democrats in the Senate a second thought about reconciliation.

The Senate passed its version of the semiconductor bill by a vote of 68 to 32, with 18 Republicans in favour, including McConnell. It’s unclear whether the other 17 Republicans who voted yes would join McConnell in changing their positions.

The centerpiece of the Senate and House bills is $50 billion for an incentive program for semiconductors and advanced microelectronics research. The House bill, which had little Republican support, included an extension of special unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade.

House and Senate lawmakers met in a formal conference committee to propose a compromise version of the legislation. McConnell and Schumer held “big four” meetings on the measure with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The central idea of ​​both bills was to make American manufacturers more competitive with China.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, blasted McConnell’s announcement in an email.

“Sen. McConnell is holding American jobs hostage in key US industries to help China and protect its Big Pharma friends, allowing them to continue screwing Americans with outrageously high Rx drug prices,” wrote Goodman.

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