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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is pushing for a monthly cap on what seniors pay out-of-pocket for drugs through Medicare's pharmacy benefit to be added to a bipartisan drug pricing bill in the Senate, a senior administration official told Axios.

The big picture: The cost of prescription drugs is still a top priority of the administration, even amidst all of the impeachment furor — and the president could very much use a big win on the subject heading into the 2020 election.

  • Most of the administration's major drug pricing policies have been tabled, are tied up in the courts or have yet to be implemented.

Between the lines: One unexpected side effect of impeachment is that it has dragged drug prices to the front of Trump's mind again, the official said.

  • Trump has been talking and meeting frequently with Republican lawmakers as part of his impeachment defense strategy.
  • But, the official said, after the members discuss impeachment for a brief while with the president they usually pivot quickly and use their time with Trump to push their priorities.
  • For many of these members of Congress, lowering drug prices is one of the most urgent demands they hear from their constituents. They want to be able to run on this issue in 2020 and they're urging Trump to lean on Senate Republicans to pass a bill.
  • Trump would not support Nancy Pelosi's bill, so the only chance is the bill sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the official said.

Details: The Grassley-Wyden bill currently caps enrollee cost-sharing in Part D at $3,100 a year beginning in 2022. The official said the administration is working with members to spread that cap out on a monthly basis.

  • "Some seniors may max out in January, and that’s a big hit. And rather than have them spend that [on a] credit card and be in debt for 12 months or even longer ... they could stagger that, and it would be a great benefit for them," the official said.
  • Grassley hinted at these changes last week, saying that the updated version of the bill "will improve the out-of-pocket cap by giving seniors and Americans with disabilities more flexibility when it comes to upfront costs."

Go deeper: Sign up for Axios Vitals for much more on this tomorrow — including an update on the international pricing index.

Go deeper

55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

The China whisperer

Nick Burns. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee for ambassador to China will face aggressive questioning Wednesday about the most important, and potentially perilous, bilateral relationship in the world.

Why it matters: While Nick Burns is an experienced diplomat with support on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers want to use his confirmation hearing to force the administration into some tough positions on China.

Jan. 6 committee recommends contempt charges against Bannon

Steve Bannon. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riots unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night recommending that former Trump aide Steve Bannon be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

Why it matters: The resolution sets up a House vote to refer Bannon for potential criminal prosecution, signaling that the committee will not tolerate attempts by former President Trump and his associates to stymie the investigation.