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President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Remember when Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry were friends? The pharmaceutical industry does.

Between the lines: Republicans on Capitol Hill barely made a peep last week after the Trump administration rolled out a drug-pricing plan that arguably goes further than the Obama administration ever attempted. This is pharma's second notable setback in just a few months. It was also caught off guard by a Medicare change in a recent spending bill, and failed to persuade lawmakers to reverse that policy in their opioids legislation.

  • The drug industry was "blindsided" by last week's proposal, which was far more aggressive than anything they had expected to see from a Republican administration, my colleague Jonathan Swan and I reported this weekend.
  • "It's a totally new day when it comes to how congressional Republicans message this," a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist told Axios of last week's proposal. "This used to be kind of off limits, and it's definitely not now. And not only is it not off limits, it's kind of popular for them to talk about."

The big picture: Pharma has suffered very close to zero political losses for the past several years, thanks in part to strong lobbying and aggressive campaign contributions, which have tended to favor Republicans.

  • Pharma industry PACs have given almost $9 million to Republican candidates this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, on top of $11 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2014.

Is the romance over? Not necessarily, the industry lobbyist said — Republicans are still a better bet for pharma than increasingly progressive Democrats.

  • A lot will depend on whether Trump's plan actually comes to fruition. The lobbyist said Republicans will likely say some of it needs to work its way through Congress — where it's likely to die — even if they didn't say much on the merits last week.

The bottom line: “The real fear is, what else is to come?" the lobbyist said. "If this is where we are 2 weeks before the election, and the House actually does flip, what are we going to see next year?”

Go deeper

US cites Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoyskyy for involvement "in significant corruption"

State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday designated former Ukrainian public official Ihor Kolomoyskyy as an individual involved "in significant corruption."

Why it matters: The designation prohibits Kolomoysky and his immediate family from traveling to the U.S. and signals that the Biden administration will help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his fight against oligarchs and entrenched corruption. U.S. authorities view Kolomoyskyy as among the most powerful of the oligarchs.

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

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