by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans, Democrats, and President Trump have a chance to pass legislation to lower healthcare costs, but risk squandering the opportunity because of the tight timeline this fall and organized opposition.
A bipartisan group of senators returning to Capitol Hill this week will resume work on bills they advanced at the committee level before the summer recess that would address the high cost of prescription drugs for seniors and curb massive unexpected medical bills patients get after they leave the hospital.
If the bills pass, they would provide members of Congress with evidence to present to voters ahead of the 2020 election that they were able to log bipartisan victories. Alternatively, it could be perilous for Democrats to appear to hand Trump a victory on issues he has promised to address — the White House has said that lowering healthcare costs is a priority.
“The time is certainly now for action — this is the window,” a senior GOP congressional aide said in an email.
But Congress is likely to struggle to find time to pass the legislation in the fall, with just three weeks of work in September before another break.
House leaders want to vote on temporary spending bills in September, and Democrats are pressuring Republicans to pass gun-control measures after a string of mass shooting this summer. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not list high healthcare costs in a letter he sent to senators about the priorities for the chamber. He instead cited gun control and election security, among other issues.