That has created pressure on lawmakers to take action. Democrats campaigned aggressively last year on their promise to lower drug prices, which helped them regain the majority in the House. On Thursday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on the Capitol steps with members of the freshman class to drive home that message.
Although the bill passed on Thursday is unlikely to become law in anything close to its present form, it will serve as a campaign document for the Democrats, to show voters what their vision is on prescription drugs and that they have the will to make a substantive change in the system rather than tinker around the edges.
The bill, named the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, for the recently deceased chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, passed with unanimous support from Democrats and the backing of two Republicans, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.
Not all Democrats were happy about it. Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, said the bill did not go far enough. Although he voted for the measure as “as a statement about the importance” of negotiating drug prices, Mr. Doggett said he sought a more expansive measure that would extend health coverage to the roughly 30 million Americans who lack it.
“This bill was developed to appeal to Trump on the theory that President Trump would follow the advice of Candidate Trump, who called for bidding, talked about the billions that could be saved,” Mr. Doggett said. “As it became evident that was not going to work, I felt that this bill didn’t need to move left, but it did need to deal with those who are left out.”
Hours after the measure passed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect House Democrats, announced that it was running an advertising campaign on Facebook to use the bill’s passage to shore up Democrats and target Republicans.
Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who heads the committee, said the ads were aimed at showing consumers that Republicans “will always prioritize padding the pockets of their special interest backers over the people they were elected to represent.”
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