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Prescription to lower drug prices eludes frustrated Trump

President Donald Trump with Health and Human Services

President Donald Trump with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on May 11, 2018. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Down on the pharma

When Donald Trump promised in his 2016 campaign to bring down prescription drug prices, accusing the industry of "getting away with murder," from all indications he was serious.

In March 2018, Trump said, "You’ll be seeing drug prices falling very substantially in the not-too-distant future, and it’s going to be beautiful.” In this year's State of the Union address, he claimed it was already happening.

But to his frustration — not to mention that of squeezed patients — it's not happening.

According to a CBS News report, drug prices are surging at five times the rate of inflation. Rx Savings Solutions, a consultant to health plans and employers, found that so far in 2019, more than 3,400 drugs have boosted their prices. The Wall Street Journal reports drugmakers initiated a new round of price increases on Monday — some of them on hospital-administered drugs that are in short supply.

The Washington Post described Trump and his administration pursuing scattershot efforts with little success. Trump entertains proposals usually pushed by progressive Democrats one moment and free-market GOP ideas the next.

The president fought with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who has now reversed his opposition to proposals to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and negotiate drug prices in Medicare. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argued with Azar in a heated Oval Office meeting that such a plan would deliver lower prescription drug prices in a key 2020 battleground state, and Trump agreed.

But key Senate Republicans such as Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley argue the government should not interfere in the marketplace and that such efforts would limit access to medicine. Azar has pushed initiatives such as more transparency in pricing, but the slow-moving rule-making process ensures it will be a long time, if ever, before that delivers results.

Trump gives up the citizen-ship

A day after Trump said he was "very strongly" considering ordering a delay of the 2020 census to try to restore a question on citizenship, his administration threw in the towel.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco confirmed there would be “no citizenship question on 2020 census.”

In a 5-4 decision last week, the Supreme Court blocked the question unless the Trump administration could come up with a more credible justification for it. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts delicately put it, to believe the "pretext" that was given — that asking about citizenship would somehow aid enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — required the justices to "exhibit a naiveté from which ordinary citizens are free."

Opponents of the citizenship question said it would discourage participation by immigrants and residents who are in the country illegally. That could have resulted caused undercounts, affecting the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending that's based on population along with how many congressional districts each state gets.

Janison: Twice nailed, thrice shy

It's a mystery what prompted Trump to choose this week to rage on Twitter at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James over the state's investigations into his business, finances and family. But you can't blame him for feeling vulnerable and worrying that new shoes could drop.

He complains his foundation was unfairly targeted, but it already has agreed under pressure to dissolve and give away its remaining assets under court supervision. The AG's office — before James took charge — said the supposed charity engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality" and was "functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”

Before that, Trump agreed to a $25 million settlement of the lawsuit pursued by New York and others that charged his Trump University was a fraud. Now, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, James is headed down more investigative roads, subpoenaing bank records about the financing of Trump Organization projects and a failed attempt in 2014 to purchase the Buffalo Bills.

Trump won't 'get political' on July 4

Amid criticism from Democrats and ethics watchdogs that Trump is injecting partisanship into Washington's July Fourth celebrations, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox Business Network that Trump “is not going to get political” during a speech from the Lincoln Memorial, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

A line of four 60-ton tanks arrived at a Washington rail yard to fulfill Trump's wishes to put military hardware on display. Trump drew ridicule for his remarks Monday that the armor will include "brand-new Sherman tanks." The last Sherman was made in 1945. They were retired by the U.S. military in 1957.

Long Island's own Fireworks by Grucci will produce the pyrotechnics display in Washington. Newsday's Craig Schneider interviewed company CEO Phil Grucci.

The homeless and the clueless

Trump offered a series of bizarre remarks on the problem of homelessness in major U.S. cities, starting with the assertion that it's “a phenomenon that started two years ago.” It was strange for Trump to say the problem began after he took office when he could have, for once, legitimately pointed out it also existed under his predecessors. But he blamed Democratic mayors.

“We may intercede,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired Monday night. “We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up.” He didn't explain what that is.

Trump also said "I had a situation when I first became president, we had certain areas of Washington, D.C., where that was starting to happen, and I ended it very quickly. I said, 'You can’t do that.' When we have leaders of the world coming in to see the president of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that."

It's unclear what he thinks he did. Homeless advocates in Washington can't figure it out either, according to a CNN fact-check.

A debatable boast

Trump said he doesn't see much to fear from debating any of the Democrats vying for their party's 2020 nomination, saying they look easier to beat than Hillary Clinton.

“This crew looks somewhat easier than Crooked, but you never know?” he tweeted. He also claimed he won all three of his 2016 debates with Clinton, though polls at the time indicated otherwise.

Trump does get bragging rights for fundraising. The president, his re-election committees and the Republican National Committee raised $105 million in the second quarter of 2019, bringing their total cash on hand to a combined $100 million, according to figures released Tuesday.

What else is happening:

  • The Homeland Security Department's inspector general released photos that showed shocking overcrowding at border facilities visited last month. Trump aide Kellyanne Conway fought on Twitter with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, challenging the congresswoman's account of abuses found during a tour of facilities on Monday, which was corroborated by other House members.
  • The "baby Trump" balloon made famous in London anti-Trump protests will make an appearance at Washington's July Fourth celebration on the National Mall. The National Park Service gave permission to the leftist Code Pink group to bring it so long as they don't fly it.
  • Sanders' campaign announced Tuesday that it raised $18 million over the past three months. He trails Pete Buttigieg, who took in $24.8 million, among Democrats who have reported their figures.
  • The House Ways and Means Committee sued Tuesday for access to Trump’s tax returns, setting up a legal showdown. Its request was rebuffed by the Treasury Department and the IRS.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the situation at the southern border with Mexico is a crisis, up from less than half who felt that way in January, according to a new CNN poll.
  • A nationwide Quinnipiac poll, a new voter survey from Iowa and a poll of Hispanics by the Spanish-language Univision network all show a surge by Kamala Harris and a slide by Joe Biden since last week's debates. The Univision poll also showed a big gain for Julián Castro. Elizabeth Warren rose and Bernie Sanders sagged in the other surveys.
  • Running for president hasn't made Bill de Blasio a morning-in-America person. He showed up 41 minutes late for what was supposed to be a 7:30 a.m. interview on WPIX 11, saying he set his alarm for the wrong time.

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