WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is trying to jump-start progress on his stalled domestic agenda by refocusing attention on one of his most popular proposals, limiting the cost of prescription drugs.
Biden is traveling on Thursday to Culpeper, Virginia, where White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president will call attention to the “unacceptable” cost of medications.
“We need to act to stop the abuse of American families," she said.
Biden’s trip to Virginia will also be an opportunity for him to start promoting his party’s candidates in November’s midterm elections. He’s expected to appear alongside Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who is in danger of losing her seat representing a central Virginia district.
“He is eager to go out there and hit the road for Democrats who are fighting for an agenda for the American people,” Psaki said Wednesday.
Spanberger said in an interview Thursday that she wants to put prescription drug costs “at front and center of the discussion," and that addressing the issue could help Americans at a time of rising inflation.
“If you're facing increased prices at the gas pump or the cost of chicken at the grocery store goes up, it hurts,” she said, speaking on the same day that the Labor Department reported consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month compared with a year earlier. It was the steepest year-over-year increase in four decades.
Spanberger is one of several Democrats who have raised alarms about slipping support from voters. She suggested in a November interview with The New York Times that Biden had overreached with his plans for new government programs that recalled the Depression-era agenda of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Nobody elected him to be FDR; they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos,” she said.
After the article was published, Spanberger said, she got a call from Biden, who said “this is President Roosevelt calling.” Biden was “belly laughing,” she said.
Prescription drugs remain a politically safe focal point for Biden’s visit, and Spanberger said the president was right to push forward on it.
“One of the most unsettling things for people is the inability to afford their prescription drugs," she said.
Efforts to lower prescription drug costs have long been popular with voters, but bipartisan consensus has proved elusive. It's unclear if there's a political path forward for Biden's plans in Congress.
His proposals include capping out-of-pocket medication costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000 per year and insulin at $35 per month. In addition, Medicare would be allowed to negotiate prices for a limited number of prescription drugs and drugmakers would be required to pay rebates if they raise costs faster than inflation.
“It’s safe to say that all of us can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country,” Biden said Dec. 6.
The provisions are part of Biden's expansive domestic agenda, but the legislation is at a standstill because of difficulty reaching a consensus within the Democratic caucus in the Senate.