Update for Week Ending October 9, 2021

Update for Week Ending October 9, 2021

Senate Passes Bill to Avoid Default

Despite a monumental work load before the end of the year, the Senate is not in session this week.  Last week they managed to come up with enough votes to prevent a default on the national debt but they only pushed it off until sometime in December – only about 8 weeks from now.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) managed to round up enough Republican votes to help Democrats pass the bill but he then sent a blistering letter to President Biden informing him that he would not do it again when December comes.

McConnell had previously threatened that Republicans would not support legislation to avoid default on the debt but apparently changed his mind when Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rules.

However, it was reported that he got so much grief from other Republican Senators for agreeing to push back the default date by two months that he decided he would not get any Republican Senators to support raising the debt ceiling in December.

The bill now awaits action in the House where it is expected to pass with very few, if any, Republican votes.

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How Bad are Things in Congress?

This is what the Associated Press says:

Congress is an angry place these days. Four years of Trump’s bellicose presidency, the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters and the high stakes for Democrats pushing Biden’s programs have taken a toll.

Frayed relationships are everywhere.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said Wednesday that he didn’t want Democrats’ huge domestic programs bill, of which Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a leading author, to make the U.S. “an entitlement society.”

Sanders criticized Manchin’s desire to curb climate change and health care provisions in the bill. “Does Senator Manchin not believe that our children and grandchildren are entitled to live in a country and a world that is healthy and is habitable?” Sanders asked.

The two represent opposite ends of Democrats’ political spectrum. Still, it was a highly unusual public airing of internal differences, and at a crucial moment.

In a letter to President Biden, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unleashed a remarkably bitter personal attack on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  McConnell said Schumer’s “childish behavior” alienated Republicans who’d just helped pass the short-term debt limit extension, adding, “It has poisoned the well even further.”

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Democrats Still Unable to Agree on how to Lower Drug Prices

Because of unanimous Republican opposition to any current legislation being considered to lower prescription drug prices, all eyes are on the Democrats in both the House and the Senate.  In particular, the two Senators receiving the most attention are Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

According to a report in Politico, last week Sinema “told the White House that she’s opposed to the drug pricing proposals drafted by House Democrats, which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to help finance Biden’s party-line bill. A number of House moderates — most of whom have received substantial donations from the pharmaceutical industry and represent districts where drug companies employ thousands of people — also say they’re concerned about the bill’s impact on the development of new cures and therapies, echoing arguments the industry itself is pushing in ad campaigns.”

Manchin has expressed support for drug pricing reform, but he has repeatedly said he’ll only accept a price tag of $1.5 trillion for the bill, or $2 trillion less than the figure House and Senate Democrats have worked with for months.

Many lawmakers say they’re confident they can still find a middle ground between the legislation favored by progressives that would empower Medicare to bargain directly with drug companies, and the version pushed by House centrists that would negotiate lower prices for a far narrower set of drugs. The members argue a watered-down drug negotiation bill may be the best they can hope for given Democrats’ narrow voting margins and an onslaught of opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

And with just a few weeks left to come to an agreement, the list of unresolved questions around the bill remains long. How many and what kind of drugs will be subject to negotiation? Will the government use an international or domestic benchmark for those negotiations, and how will they penalize drug companies that refuse to comply? How much can the government claw back from companies that raise their prices faster than inflation?

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As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the our website at www.SeniorsLeague.orgfollow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.