In addition to interest, Sinema is likely keen to see if the prescription drug pricing provisions change significantly during parliamentary review. Democrats are adding insulin provisions and making other changes, such as replacing a 95% tax penalty on drugmakers who won’t negotiate under the bill’s terms with a civil monetary penalty.
Schumer said he does not know the specific details on the excise tax issue, but his aides and staff for the finance and budget panels are working with the parliamentarian. “We are optimistic that we will achieve good results,” he said.
The excise tax was designed to be so onerous that it would force drug companies to lower prices, so lawmakers like Sinema, who helped draft the bulk of drug pricing provisions last year last, will no doubt be interested in the structure of the financial penalty.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., must also pledge support for the bill. In a lengthy speech on the floor Tuesday night outlining party priorities omitted from the package, Sanders said he wanted to offer amendments to improve it and encouraged other senators to do the same.
If Sinema and the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus ultimately sign off on the package, the passage likely becomes a simple matter of timing. Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., returned to the Senate Tuesday after recovering from COVID-19, meaning Democrats will be in full attendance for votes on the reconciliation package as long as no one no one else will get sick.