Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) split over prescription drug prices Friday after the West Virginia senator chastised his centrist ally for slowing Democratic progress on reducing the cost of pharmaceuticals.
Manchin noted that a $35 cap on prescription drug prices was cut from the Inflation Reduction Act, a major climate bill that he helped champion in the Senate last month. Although Republicans axed the proposal from the final cut, Manchin claimed Sinema was also to blame.
“We had a senator from Arizona who basically didn’t let us go as far as we needed to go with our negotiations and made us wait two years,” Manchin said during a roundtable conversation, according to Business Insider. “Those type of things … I don’t question anybody. Everyone’s responding to their own constituent base. But we did get something.”
A spokesperson for Manchin later claimed the senator had misspoken, according to the outlet.
Sinema responded to Manchin’s swipe Friday afternoon, highlighting her previous support for reducing Medicare drug prices. Sinema has argued for more modest reforms to regulations of prescription drug prices, publicly opposing a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that would have hurt private equity. Senate Democrats agreed to drop that proposal in exchange for Sinema’s vote, which was crucial given a 50-50 split in the Senate.
Both senators have been dinged by their Democratic peers for their willingness to stonewall President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda last year. However, Manchin agreed to a slimmed-down version of the bill last month after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to focus the bill more on countering inflation and reducing the U.S. deficit.
“The BBB was killed, and then we were basically in limbo up until April,” Manchin said. “It started in April, getting to the point to where inflation was basically killing all of us — every person, man, woman, and child in America. And we have to do that.”
The new law, which was signed by Biden on Tuesday after both Manchin and Sinema threw their support behind it, allowed Medicare to negotiate the cost of 10 drugs in 2026. The move marks the first time the federal program can negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry.