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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House and top lawmakers from both parties think a bill to lower drug prices has a better chance of becoming law before the 2020 election than any other controversial legislation.

Between the lines: Republican politics on drug prices have changed rapidly. The White House has told Democrats it has no red lines on the substance of drug pricing — a position that should leave pharma quaking.

What they're saying: "I think if we get a bipartisan deal on anything, it’s going to be this," a senior administration official told Axios, characterizing the thinking at the top level of the White House.

  • The official said that in the White House's conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, “the only red line that we have communicated" is that a drug pricing deal shouldn't be combined with any changes to the Affordable Care Act.
  • When asked specifically about red lines drawn around direct Medicare price negotiations — a top priority for Democrats — the official reiterated that “we’re not drawing any red lines on anything in the drug space right now.”
  • "We’re having conversations with the White House, but they are not negotiations," said Henry Connelly, a Pelosi spokesperson. "We’re looking at every option to maximize the leverage needed to drive down prescription drug prices.”

Yes, but: The official added that "if people want to pursue something out of religious zeal ... we’re not interested in that. If there’s a practical solution that will give patients and taxpayers a break, we’re open to it.”

Top lawmakers and lobbyists have told Axios over the last several months that real momentum has been building behind the issue.

  • “It’s created interesting alliances and probably is the number one topic for legislatively addressing an issue for the remainder of this year," House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said.
  • "In this unusual three-sided political world, dealing with prescription drug prices seems to have the best chances of a legislative accomplishment," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, adding that he was referring to the Democratic House, the Republican Senate and the "unaffiliated White House."

The other side: The drug industry warns that government intervention on prices will result in less innovation, and President Trump has shown an interest in new treatments.

  • "When he has conversations around new treatments for things — the new genetic treatments, the sickle cell treatments, all these new therapies that are coming online — he gets very excited about them," the administration official said. "He’s very sympathetic to that, and he wants to make sure that ... this biopharmaceutical ecosystem continues."

What we're watching: Bipartisan bills have already started progressing through the House, establishing a floor for what Congress could accomplish even without the weight of a White House-Pelosi deal.

  • The Senate is likely to see significant movement before the August recess.
  • "It’s all got to get wrapped up by December, because nothing’s going to happen next year because of the election," the administration official said. "I think you’ll start to see, hopefully, terminal velocity in the summertime.”

Not everyone is confident Congress will be able to pull this off.

  • “Anything that gets done would need to be passed before the August recess, which itself is growing more unlikely as time passes and fights over the ACA and other issues erode whatever bipartisan collaboration that might have existed," a former Trump administration official told Axios.

Details: Republicans have recently put forward a slate of new bills, some of which could have been written by liberal Democrats.

  • Sen. Rick Scott introduced a bill that would ban drug companies from charging Americans a higher list price than they charge consumers in Canada, France, the U.K., Japan or Germany.
  • Sen. Mike Braun, who also introduced legislation, told Axios: “I’m just disgusted that we're at this point in time where we're apologizing for a broke industry and they’re not waking up and doing something about it on their own."
  • Sen. John Cornyn plans to introduce a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission to bring antitrust suits against drugmakers who use the patent system to discourage competition.
  • Meadows said he's part of a bipartisan group that's discussing changes to the administration's international pricing proposal, which ties Medicare reimbursement rates to what other countries pay for the same drug.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
13 mins ago - World

Airbnb doubles number of Afghan refugees it will house to 40,000

Afghan refugees arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in August 2021. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and co-founder Joe Gebbia said during a visit to Washington on Wednesday that they're offering temporary housing to 40,000 Afghan refugees worldwide, doubling a previous commitment.

The big picture: The housing typically lasts several weeks, and Airbnb and Airbnb.org provide subsidies to hosts.

Florida lawmaker introduces abortion bill modeled after Texas law

A view of the old Florida Capitol building, which sits in front of the current new Capitol building, in Tallahassee. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

A Florida lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday modeled after Texas' new law prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or roughly six weeks — before many people know they are pregnant.

Why it matters: Similar bills introduced to the Florida legislature have failed, but that was before the Supreme Court declined to block Texas' law, which is the most restrictive abortion law to be enforced since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, according to AP.

Tech firms' nightmare: Vanishing green cards

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Thousands of green cards are about to go to waste, leaving Google, Microsoft and other tech companies fuming — and pushing the Biden administration to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Why it matters: Tech workers have waited years for green cards that will grant them permanent legal status in the U.S. — but because of pandemic-related processing delays, they will have to wait even longer.