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U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader could pose a key stumbling block as Democrats attempt to pass their $3.5 trillion Build Back better package.

FILE - U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, right, gives Clackamas County elected officials an update on Congress in 2013.Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader has staked out his opposition to a key portion of his fellow Democrats' $3.5 trillion social policy package.

Rep. Schrader and two other Democrats joined Republicans in voting against a proposal to lower prescription drug prices during a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 15, according to the New York Times.

The Democratic plan, which would allow Medicare to directly negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry, later cleared a different committee — but the Democrats cannot afford to lose even a single vote at crunch time on the proposal, known as the Build Back Better Act, due to united Republican opposition.

"I want to be clear. I support Medicare drug price negotiations," Schrader said in a statement to the Washington Post.

Schrader and one of the other defectors, California Rep. Scott Peters, have created a competing plan that would create yearly out-of-pocket caps on Medicare payments for seniors living below the federal poverty line and establish a $50 per month maximum cost for insulin, among other things.

The Times dismissed Schrader's competing plan as a "less aggressive alternative" that would produce "considerably less savings" for the government than the $450 billion that would be banked over a decade using the toothier plan.

The House doesn't have the final word on drug-price negotiations, however.

In the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is using his post as Finance Committee Chairman to hash out his own prescription drug plan. However, that proposal will ultimately need to be reconciled with the house resolution, and Wyden has his own moderate caucus members to consider.

As the mark-up of the Build Back Better bill continued in the House on Sept. 15, Rep. Schrader raised more worries about Democratic dreams to expand dental programs.

"I've got very serious concerns about adding additional programs, services and costs when Medicare itself is facing insolvency in a mere five years. We've sort of forgotten that fact," he said, according to a livestream video. "Even the Part B program is consuming ever great numbers and amounts of general fund revenue. We can't afford the current benefits right now."

Schrader's district, Oregon's Fifth, contains all or most of Lake Oswego, West Linn, Wilsonville, Canby, Molalla, Woodburn, Oregon City and parts of unincorporated Clackamas County.

Zane Sparling
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