President Biden and Rep. Katie Porter sought to focus voters’ attention on Democrats’ work to lower the cost of prescription drugs during an event in Orange County on Friday afternoon. With inflation likely to be Democrats’ biggest liability in next month’s midterm elections, Biden and Porter (D-Irvine) eagerly emphasized what their party had already done to try to reduce consumer costs.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a domestic spending package Biden signed into law in August, expands access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, allows Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, lowers the cost of insulin and imposes a $2,000 annual cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.
But those actions won’t take effect until 2026, so are unlikely to ease the immediate economic pain for Americans struggling with higher costs, especially of gas and food. Biden made only passing mention of the consumer price index report released Thursday showing inflation abating only slightly at 8.2%.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but folks are still struggling,” Biden said, acknowledging the economic pain during an event at Irvine Valley College. He called the Inflation Reduction Act “a gigantic change” and “one of the most important bills ever when it comes to helping families pay their bills at the end of the month.”
Biden criticized Republicans for voting against the law and warned that the GOP would roll back its benefits if they win enough seats on Nov. 8.
“If Republicans take control, prices are going to go up,” he said.
Attendees were given a White House-produced flier that mimicked the “12-Point Plan to Rescue America” released earlier this year by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). Biden referenced Scott’s plan as proof that Republicans want to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Biden also signed a largely symbolic executive order Friday tasking the federal government with finding new ways to lower drug costs within the next 90 days.
Porter, the first Democrat ever to represent her district, has been an effective fundraiser as she seeks a third term, having boosted her national profile with several performances in committee hearings that went viral, including some in which she blasts pharmaceutical executives for price gouging.
“Big Pharma fights tooth and nail to [avoid] negotiating fair prices because it wants to line its pockets with our taxpayer dollars. Congressional Democrats and President Biden said enough is enough,” Porter told the crowd of 200 people in a small outdoor courtyard, adding that allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices will help working families. “We stood up to the special interests, and we put people first.”
Biden praised Porter for her toughness and credited her with helping pass the Inflation Reduction Act.
“You are a fighter, you’re decent, you’re honorable and everybody respects you,” he said. “Because you get a lot done.”
The president began his remarks by addressing the concerns of hundreds of Iranian Americans who had gathered with signs on the outskirts of the campus, stating that the U.S. “stands with the brave people” fighting for more rights in Iran.
“Iran has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising [their] fundamental rights,” he said.
Biden has been eager to emphasize all that he and Democrats have accomplished legislatively since he took office less than two years ago: a massive pandemic relief package; bipartisan laws to overhaul infrastructure, boost American microchip manufacturing and improve healthcare for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals on the battlefield; and the Inflation Reduction Act.
He has been less vocal about some of the more charged issues affecting the midterm campaign, including abortion rights. And his four-day Western trip this week has shown that many of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents believe they may be better served by avoiding the president.
Biden’s campaign swing did not include stops in Arizona or Nevada, where Democratic incumbents face harder races that are likely to determine which party controls the Senate next year.
He started his trip with a stop in Colorado on Wednesday, appearing with Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat facing a serious challenge as he seeks a third full term in a state that has turned more blue over the last decade. That appearance, where Biden designated his first new national monument high in the Rocky Mountains, excluded talk of other issues, addressing only the preservation of Camp Hale, a World War II-era training camp.
On Thursday, Biden appeared twice with Los Angeles mayoral candidate Karen Bass. The president spoke at an event highlighting how funds from last year’s infrastructure overhaul aided the construction of the city’s new westside Metro Line expansion, then proceeded to a photo op at a Westwood taco shop.
Thursday evening’s fundraiser at the Brentwood home of television producer Marcy Carsey, which raised $5 million for Democratic House candidates, was the centerpiece of Biden’s swing through the West Coast.
After the event with Porter, Biden flew to Portland, Ore., on Friday evening for two events aimed at boosting the Democratic candidate in that state’s surprisingly competitive three-way race for governor.
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