This week, President Biden finally signed the landmark bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. The bill’s passage was a victory for the beleaguered president and Democratic Party just two weeks after bruising election results in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York State.
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 15: U.S. President Joe Biden (C) signs H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure … [+] Investment and Jobs Act, during a ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House on November 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)
In races in each of those states, there was a pervasive sense that the Democratic candidates—and by extension, the national Democratic Party—were not speaking to the everyday needs and concerns of voters, especially with regard to education and the economy.
Indeed, the subsequent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is broadly popular with Americans, was an important and necessary action for President Biden and Democrats to take in order to demonstrate their commitment to delivering real solutions for the American people.
In addition to making historic investments to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, in one facet of the infrastructure bill, Democrats also delivered in-part on a promise to lower drug prices by now allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on the prices of a select numbers of drugs. In the longer term, this will help reduce costs for many seniors.
Now, as Democrats turn to the remainder of their agenda with an eye to the 2022 midterms, the party needs to build on these achievements and recommit themselves to addressing voters’ everyday concerns—including the high cost of the cost of prescription drugs, among other economic and healthcare-related issues.
That being said, Democrats’ approach to future legislation needs to be on an issue-by-issue basis; not by using the reconciliation process to pass a multi-trillion-dollar spending initiative that has no clarity or political consensus surrounding it.
The approach I’ve suggested would involve holding a separate vote on each policy or area within the party’s larger “Build Back Better” plan based on the issue’s individual merit and political appeal. This way, the onus is on the Republicans and the various fighting wings in the party to compromise on individual policies based on their appeal and fiscal practicality.
One of the first issues that Democrats in Congress should address using the approach I’ve suggested is lowering the cost of prescription drug prices. While the bipartisan bill’s passage was a good start, deeper savings on drug prices for all Americans will not be delivered until the entire rebate system for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) is addressed.
Under the current system, PBMs operate as middle-men in the supply chain for prescription drugs. When they negotiate with drug companies to distribute their products, they often receive rebates. However, over the past decade, PBMs have increasingly kept the rebates and not passed them on to consumers.
In terms of how future legislation can help address this head-on, Democrats should pass legislation stating that rebates must be passed on to consumers.
Not only would this secure a major win for Democrats on the issue of drug pricing—especially when taken together with the earlier step of allowing Medicare to begin negotiating prices—but it would also force Republicans for a second time to vote against lowering drug prices.
In this way, Democrats can open a new line of attack on Republicans in next year’s midterms, arguing that the Democrats are the party of lowering drug prices for all Americans and delivering real change in seniors’ daily lives, as well as the daily lives of their caregivers who observe this issue first hand.
Further to this point, successfully lowering drug prices can be incorporated in the strategic pivot needed by the Democrats in the aftermath of Election Day 2021 and the dramatic retooling of their campaign strategy that will be needed for 2022.
Securing a complete win on drug pricing, through both Medicare negotiating power and substantial reforms to the current rebate system, Democrats can prove that they are delivering results on issues that touch voters’ daily lives.
In fact, despite ideological divisions within the Democratic Party, rebate reforms can serve as an issue that Democrats can indeed coalesce around based on what it offers to deliver for all Americans by lowering drug prices. This single issue can help build ideological unity within the base and also secure an economic win based on its support for both consumers and manufacturers alike.

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