Congress in Session … watch you wallet

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House and Senate negotiators finished work on the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bills, which represent a lion’s share of annual appropriations. The HHS share includes $90.5 billion in HHS appropriations, a $2.3 billion boost from last year. A continuing resolution would cover agencies not included in the “minibus” spending bills.

The health spending bill includes $3.8 billion specifically set for battling the opioid epidemic, as well as provisions addressing the care of immigrant children in federal custody.

What’s notable is a provision that did not make it in.

House GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill

Congress has long struggled to do anything to tackle drug prices, and there was more of that on Thursday, when a bipartisan amendment that was also supported by President Trump was left out of the health-funding bill.

The provision, which passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis last month, would require drug prices to be disclosed in television advertisements for drugs in an effort to increase transparency and bring down prices.

Lawmakers and aides said that House Republicans objected to including the provision in the final version of the funding bill, which was finished by House and Senate negotiators on Thursday.

Who’s to blame? “Big Pharma,” supporters say: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the sponsors of the provision, blamed pharmaceutical companies for exercising their influence to block the measure.

“When are we going to stand up to Big Pharma?” Durbin asked.

Not a lot of clarity from Republicans on the reason: Asked about the objections, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the top health appropriator in the House, said he did not want to get into the details, but said that some House Republicans opposed the provision.

“Our friends in the House felt differently on this topic,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the top Senate health appropriator.

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