Democratic Divisions Flare Over Tax Increases and Drug Pricing

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In both the House and Senate, Democrats are working to resolve their internal differences over a massive social policy measure that would require near-perfect unity to pass.

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WASHINGTON — Tensions were rising in their ranks on Tuesday, a day before Democrats’ self-set deadline for completing committee work on their massive social policy bill, over how to prepare and finance it.


Disagreement over how to tax the vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and control drug prices has emerged as flashpoints as Democrats may be the most significant extension of the social safety net in half a century.

Democratic leaders insisted they were on track to finish their work this fall and reach an agreement. But liberal lawmakers were agitating for a big tax hike on the ultrarich in the package, while three moderate Democrats in the House threatened to derail their leaders’ efforts to advance plans for drug price controls.

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Hanging on to disputes is an increasing competition for resources. The $3.5 trillion price tag was always going to be full, fitting all of the party’s priorities into the original, fully funded 10-year. But prominent lawmakers are now demanding lower spending and objecting to exploitation of some sources of revenue, making it difficult to compromise.

“There are many contentious issues,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont and chairman of the budget committee. “How aggressive are you in raising money for the pharmaceutical industry through Medicare negotiations? When you raise money, how aggressive are you in spending Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eye glasses?”

“You have to balance them all,” he said.

The disputes are particularly troubling because Democrats, facing a wall of Republican opposition, are pushing their plan through a special budget process known as reconciliation, which protects it from a filibuster. and can be passed with a simple majority. But to do so would require almost complete party unity in both houses for their low margins; 50-50 In the Senate, they can’t afford a single defection, and in the House, they can save at least three votes.

This effort is a huge undertaking, fraught with political and procedural challenges. Senate Democrats spent lunch Tuesday reviewing a PowerPoint presentation that lasted at least 35 minutes and detailed the work that had been completed and the issues that were outstanding.

“We had a strong, comprehensive and really constructive discussion in our caucus today,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and majority leader, said in his weekly news conference.

One of the issues to be resolved was one that erupted in the House on Tuesday when two moderate Democrats, Representative Scott Peters of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, came out against the Democratic leadership’s drug pricing plan and proposed a less aggressive option This is likely to result in very little savings for the government. Another Democrat and co-sponsor of that option, Representative Kathleen Rice of New York, also said she would vote against the leaders’ plan, which would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for the government and those paid in other countries. Will allow drug prices to be tied up. .

The powerful pharmaceutical lobby has swung into action to scrap the measure, which was supposed to produce savings of at least $500 billion to pay a large portion of the bill. If all three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing it, they could block the legislation from going ahead with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, denying Democrats a substantial portion of revenue, allowing them to expand health care provisions. needs to pay for its more ambitious plans. the profit.

“I’m open to the revenue growth the president has proposed, but I don’t think it’s fair to risk the future of American innovation to pay for these other things,” Mr Peters said in an interview.

“I’m swallowing my whistle on a lot of these issues, which is where I worry,” he said. “This is an issue that I have always raised, which I cannot support.”

Another issue is the decision of senior Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee to focus a $2.1 trillion tax package on income taxes rather than levies on the billions of dollars in wealth owned by the richest Americans, which increase every year and are No sales tax is levied.

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