A group of Democratic Party legislators disrupted President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening by thrusting three fingers into the air and chanting, “H.R. 3!”.
H.R. 3 is the “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act,” the Democrats’ proposal for prescription drug price reform. The bill has 106 cosponsors, all Democrats, and passed the House of Representatives on a nearly straight party-line vote, with just two Republican votes in favor.
Democratic lawmakers chant "H.R.3" as President Trump discusses prescription drug pricing. The House passed that bill last year to lower drug costs, but the Senate hasn't taken it up #SOTU https://t.co/C3Wm2ERpwP pic.twitter.com/4TqRubbrSj
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 5, 2020
The White House has rejected the proposal, partly because the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would reduce the number of new medicines brought to market.
As the White House said in December:
In its current form, H.R. 3 would likely undermine access to lifesaving medicines. The bill creates a statutory scheme for “negotiation” between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and pharmaceutical manufacturers regarding the price of prescription drugs, but the penalty for failing to reach agreement with the Secretary is so large that the Secretary could effectively impose price controls on manufacturers. Moreover, this price-fixing mechanism places price controls on drugs available under Medicare and commercial plans, and imposes devastating fines on manufacturers, raising serious concerns under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause and Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause.
This bill would also compromise the health of Americans by dramatically reducing the incentive to bring innovative therapeutics to market. The preliminary Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis indicates that the bill would reduce the number of new medicines coming to market. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that H.R. 3’s price controls would affect as much as one third of drugs under development, meaning that out of 300 projected new medicines that would otherwise be approved over 10 years by the Food and Drug Administration, 100 could be severely delayed or never developed. As a result, CEA estimates H.R. 3 would erase a quarter of the expected gains in life expectancy in the United States over the next decade.
The Democrats who stood up in protest could not easily be understood on television, but Politico’s Jake Sherman noted it:
Dems are now chanting HR 3 — their drug pricing bill. Trump is trying to talk over them
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 5, 2020
Vocal protests at State of the Union addresses are very rare. Several female members of Congress wore white on Tuesday — as many did last year — to honor the suffragette movement a century before.
But the chant itself was an additional protest.
Trump praised alternative legislative efforts being led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “I have been speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in the Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done properly.
“I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law without delay.”
Update: Another protester, Parkland dad Fred Guttenberg, reportedly heckled the president and was ejected:
Via @stevenportnoy: Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg, was ejected from the Speaker’s box after he screamed at the president, following Trump’s vow to protect the 2nd Amendment.
— Norah O'Donnell🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) February 5, 2020
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.