Democrats Take Control of House of Representatives, Open Up Opportunity for Lowering Drug Prices

November 7, 2018

 

In yesterday's midterm elections, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in a sweeping victory which was implicitly a rebuke of President Trump. As of this morning, the Democratic Party has at least 220 seats in the House. Republicans lost 27 seats in the elections, for a rough total of 193. This result offers hope for advocates of reducing drug prices, and the next Congress will make this issue a high priority.

 

While the economy performed well, President Trump was broadly unpopular, and Democrats recruited a number of excellent House candidates. In northern Virginia's 10th congressional district, incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock was ousted by Democrat Jennifer Wexton by thirteen points. In Virginia's 7th congressional district, incumbent Republican Dave Brat narrowly lost to Democrat Abigail Spanberger, as suburban voters who have traditionally voted Republican turned to Democrats. Similar stories took place in New York, where Democrat Antonio Delgado defeated the incumbent, in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota, and in Iowa, where Democrats gained two House seats and almost captured a third.

 

The news was not all bad for Republicans. In Florida Republican Ron DeSantis won the governor's race, turning back a strong challenge by Democrat Andrew Gillums, who would have been the first African-American governor of the state. In Texas incumbent Senator Ted Cruz overcame Democrat Beto O'Rourke by 51% to 48%. And Republicans actually gained at least two Senate seats, defeating Democrats Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. But on the whole, suburban voters recoiled from Trump and the Republicans who stood with him, and voted for Democrats. And a substantial number of women were elected-the new Congress will have a record number of women as legislators.

 

This is a golden opportunity. Drug prices are outrageously high, and anger at drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) has reached a fever pitch. In an interview, House Minority Leader (and likely future Speaker) Nancy Pelosi said, "I think we could find common ground on reducing the cost of prescription drugs, if the president is serious about his saying that he wants to do that," although she also commented that Trump "has pulled his punch so far." And Representatives like Elijah Cummings have been vocal about the need to lower drug costs, and they will hold powerful positions come January.

 

In contrast to this disappointing Congress, the next Congress will spend a lot of time and energy on drug prices and holding drug companies and PBMs accountable. It is our job to take this energy and angry and turn it into meaningful, lasting reform.

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