Top Democrats Write to President Expressing “Profound Disappointment” With His Failure to Work Together to Lower Drug Prices

Oct 25, 2017
Press Release

Top Democrats Write to President Expressing “Profound Disappointment” With His Failure to Work Together to Lower Drug Prices


Since Oval Office Meeting in March, Dems Received Nothing from Trump Except “Radio Silence”


Washington, D.C. (Oct. 25, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, a senior Democrat on the Oversight and Energy and Commerce Committees, sent a letter to President Trump expressing their “profound disappointment” that he failed to work with them in any way after they went to the White House in March at his invitation, personally presented him with a draft of their bill to allow the government to negotiate directly for lower drug prices in Medicare, and asked for his endorsement and any feedback he had on their proposal.  


“We write today—for the third time—to express our profound disappointment that you have chosen not to follow through on your campaign promise to lower drug prices for the American people,” Cummings and Welch wrote today.  “The people who elected you President believed you when you said that prescription drug prices are too high and that drug companies are ‘getting away with murder’—a claim you continue to repeat.  They believed you when you pledged to create a ‘fair and competitive bidding process’ that would result in prices ‘coming way, way, way down’ for American families.”


Today’s letter follows two previous letters the Democrats sent to the President reiterating their desire to work with him on this issue on April 20, 2017, and June 21, 2017.  Trump never responded to either of those letters.


The exchange began on January 16, 2017, when Cummings appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly before Trump was sworn in as President.  When Cummings was asked whether he was willing to work with the incoming President, he responded by looking directly into the camera and saying:


“I know the President-elect is watching, and I would say to you, Mr. President-elect, I’d be happy to meet with you at any moment.  But we have work to do.  The American people want us to get to work for them and lift them up.  And if you want to deal with prescription drugs and reducing the prices, I’m here with you. ... When I read yesterday that the President-elect wanted to begin to deal with this issue, I said ‘hallelujah.’  Because that way—I mean things like Epi-Pens and things that people need from day to day—and I know he, I believe in my heart that he wants the American people to do well.  And so, again, I know you’re watching, President-elect, I’m here for us to move forward on the things that we can agree on.”


The President telephoned Cummings shortly after the interview and invited him to the White House to discuss ways they could work together to lower drug prices, and Cummings accepted immediately.


Strangely, on February 16, 2017, the President held a nationally televised press conference during which he inaccurately criticized Cummings for scuttling the meeting, suggesting without any basis that Senator Chuck Schumer had warned Cummings that it was “bad politics.”


The President’s claims were completely inaccurate, as Cummings pointed out immediately at the time.  In fact, Cummings was working on a draft bill with Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders, Rep. Lloyd Doggett and others to allow the government to negotiate directly to lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.  As Cummings said at the time, “My goal was to finalize our proposal to allow HHS to negotiate lower drug prices so I could present it to the President.”


That is exactly what Cummings did.  On Mach 8, 2017, Cummings and Welch met with President Trump and then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price at the White House, and they gave him a copy of their draft legislation. During the meeting, the Democrats asked for the President’s feedback, advice, and support for their draft legislation.  


President Trump “seemed enthusiastic about the idea,” according to a statement Cummings and Welch issued after the meeting, and the President even called Cummings after their meeting to reiterate his initial interest in working together.


“It has now been more than seven months since we met with you at the White House, since you told us you wanted to work together, and since we gave you our proposal, which the vast majority of Americans overwhelmingly support,” the Members wrote today.  “Last February, you claimed during a press conference that we were avoiding your invitation to work together because it was ‘bad politics.’  The truth is that we have made every possible effort to collaborate with you in good faith for the better part of this year.  Unfortunately, our efforts were met with radio silence.  The American people can no longer wait for you to make good on your campaign promises to take aggressive action to lower drug prices, and neither can we.” 


Today, Cummings, Sanders, Welch, and Doggett held a press conference to announce the introduction of The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2017 to direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.  The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Reed, Gillibrand, Harris, and Al Franken, and Reps. Pocan, Higgins, Ellison, Schakowsky, Kaptur, Norton, Jayapal, Cohen, Gabbard, Grijalva, Nadler, Raskin, and DeLauro and has been endorsed by more than a dozen advocacy organizations.


Click here to read today’s letter to President Trump.


115th Congress