Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Bipartisan Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act

December 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which passed on a bipartisan 230 – 192 vote.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.   Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentlewoman from Michigan, a leader in the Freshman Class, for yielding time and for her extraordinary leadership in so many ways.  It’s so, just invigorating to see the Freshmen Members of this class taking the lead on this important legislation. 

Many of us just came in from the steps of the Capitol where, again, the Freshmen Members took the lead following up on a promise made last year during the election: For The People, we will lower the cost of health costs in America by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. 

H.R. 3 does just that. 

Named for our great and departed, may he rest in peace, Elijah Cummings, the Elijah [E.] Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.  This is very, very important.  I thank – and this is a product – it may come as news to our Republican friends who were saying things to the contrary, this is a product of the work of three committees in the Congress. 

I thank Chairman Pallone of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Richie Neal of Ways and Means and Bobby Scott, Chair of the Education and Labor Committee for their relentless, persistent work on these life-saving – this life-saving legislation where many Freshmen are speaking now, controlling the time, but in the course of the debate of yesterday, under the aegis committees of jurisdiction, many of them spoke at that time, as well: demonstrating their leadership on this issue, making it a reality on the Floor of the House.  And, I thank, again for their bold and urgency – bold urgency to lower the costs of drugs.

The crushing burden of prescription drugs is an issue that impacts every family in America.  Much talk is given around here about having a seat at the table.  The most important seat at the most important table is the kitchen table of America's working families where they enjoy family but also address challenges that face them, whether it's in their health or their financial health and how that is related.  And so, this legislation today speaks to that important table of concerns. 

In my travels across the country, I have seen grown men cry about how they cannot meet the needs of their families when it costs to prescription drug costs: spouses with long-term injuries, illnesses, children with chronic diseases and the rest.

Prescription drug prices are out of control. 

The price of insulin, invented nearly a century ago – and people say we have to cover our research costs – invented nearly a century ago, doubled from 2012 to 2016 because of Big Pharma's greed.  Many people use it, a lot of people buy it.  ‘Let's increase our profits,’ they say.  

Americans are paying four times or more – four times or more – for what Big Pharma charges for the exact drugs in other countries.  While Big Pharma companies reap record-breaking profits and multi-billion dollar wind falls from the GOP Tax Scam, 58 million Americans couldn't afford to fill a prescription they needed to stay healthy in the past year – 58 million Americans.  Thirty-four million Americans know a loved one who died from not being able to afford a treatment that they needed.

We face a medical, economic and moral crisis that demands we act and that we act boldly. 

Yes, they have a motion to recommit and I think that it was appropriate that the Republicans have a – the opportunity to put an alternative on the Floor; incremental pieces, not going to the heart of the matter.  How dare they ever think of enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower prices, which is the heart of the matter?  

We have been trying to do this for a number of years.  Today, we will. 

Last year, again, we made the promise For The People that we would lower the cost of prescription drugs.  We are finally giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices. 

Some Republicans say it's ‘un-American’ for the Secretary to be able to negotiate for lower prices.  ‘Un-American.’

Making those lower prices available to the hundreds of millions of Americans with private insurance, too.  We also are insisting that American seniors and families shouldn't have to pay more for our medicines than what Big Pharma charges for the same drugs overseas.  I say that again.

H.R. 3 means lowering the cost of medication for Americans with leukemia by more than 70 percent.  It means lowering the cost of medication for arthritis, which more than 50 million Americans have, by almost 75 percent.  It means lowering the cost of asthma medication for 25 million Americans with this condition from $1,500 to $270. 

Yesterday, we had Mr. Riordan testify in our press conference yesterday.  The cost of his medication for asthma, in his case, was over $60,000 a month.  80 percent of it was covered by Medicare, but he had to pay about over $4,000 a month.  Can you absorb that?  $4,000 a month for a drug that you're supposed to take four times a month?   He was taking it twice a month, once a month, or not at all.  Not a healthy thing to do, but reaping big profits for Big Pharma. 

And, under H.R. 3, some commonly used insulins could cost as little as $400 a year.  With the Lower Drug Costs [Now Act], we put more money in the pockets of seniors and hard-working Americans, we drive down insurance premiums, make it easier to afford coverage.  And when we lift the immense burden of drug cost on employers, the CBO says American businesses can expect bigger paychecks and salaries for their workers.

H.R. 3 also represents the most transformative expansion of Medicare since its inception.  Now, many people on the other side of the aisle did not support Medicare at its inception, but this is the vast improvement because we are investing more than half a trillion – that's with a ‘T-R’ – a half a trillion dollars that we are saving by lowering out-of-cost prices in historic, we’re investing in historic new benefits for vision, for dental and hearing for Medicare beneficiaries for the first time. 

And with these new savings, we are also investing in the search for new treatment and cures and fighting the opioid epidemic – as the gentleman from New York, Mr. Rose, pointed out – and in the community health centers that deliver quality health care to so many Americans. 

Advocacy groups representing tens of millions of Americans, seniors, retirees, patients and providers, faith leaders, business and the men and women of labor and more support H.R. 3. 

AARP wrote to Members of Congress this week and said, and I quote, ‘This important legislation is a bold step to lowering prescription drug prices and improving Medicare for seniors and families across the country… H.R. 3 will help more Americans afford their prescription drugs and get the care they need to stay healthy.’  They said that in their support of the legislation. 

There's every reason in the world for Republicans to join us in passing this bill.  The bill delivers on President Trump's promise to the American people.  In his words, he said, ‘When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we're going to negotiate like crazy.’ 

Negotiation is what this bill is about.  The Republican substitute is what this bill is not about, and that – negotiation – is the heart of the matter. 

He also said, the President did, ‘It's unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.  This is wrong, this is unfair and together we will stop it.’ 

Actually, in creating this bill and working with the committees to do so, we were working with the interest of the White House, the Administration on all of this.  I don't know where it happened, but somewhere along the way, negotiation and the rest fell by the by.  And that, again, could be attributed to I don't know what. 

Democrats named H.R. 3, as I mentioned, in honor of chairman Elijah Cummings, our North Star, who worked across the aisle and down Pennsylvania Avenue – he met with the President – to lower prescription drug prices. 

In honor of Chairman Cummings and for the sake of the millions of Americans struggling with high prescription drug costs, I urge a strong vote on H.R. 3, to lower drug costs now for all Americans, For The People. 

With that I urge an aye vote and yield back the balance of my time.