President Biden highlights fight against Big Pharma in Portland speech

President Joe Biden touted Democrats as American families’ champion against Big Pharma on Saturday at the East Portland Community Center.

Biden spoke about how the Inflation Reduction Act will lower drug costs for seniors on the first day of open enrollment for Medicare. The bill Biden signed in August seeks to lower energy and healthcare costs for families who have been hit by the most rapid consumer price increases in four decades.

“This year the American people won for the first time,” he said, “and Big Pharma lost.”

The president made his second visit to Portland this year three weeks before the midterm elections, rallying his base as Oregon Democrats face tough races up and down the ballot.

The president sang the praises of Oregon’s senior U.S. senator, Ron Wyden, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee and has been an ongoing champion of curtailing pharmaceutical companies.

“(Wyden) has done more for Medicare, other than the actual passage of Medicare and Social Security, than anyone in the nation,” Biden said.

The president highlighted some key provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that will begin next year, including capping insulin copays at $35 and requiring drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation.

A major reform that will benefit millions of seniors with chronic illnesses will begin in 2025, when annual out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries will be capped at $2,000. In the following year, Medicare will be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over prices of certain drugs.

The president said his father, who was a working-class salesman, told him, “Everyone deserves a bit of breathing room,” referring to money left over to spend or save after paying the bills each month. The Inflation Reduction Act would give Americans the “breathing room” they need, he said.

But Biden said follow-through on these key changes hinges on Democrats keeping the House and Senate. He reminded the audience that every Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act and said conservatives would take away the reforms if they take over Congress.

“When it actually comes time to do something about inflation around the kitchen table,” he said, “every Republican said no.”

Oregon’s 40-year string of Democratic governors is at risk as unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson pulls a significant share of registered Democrats from Tina Kotek, who has been pegged as statistically neck and neck with Republican candidate Christine Drazan in several recent polls. The president will participate in a fundraising event for Kotek Saturday afternoon as the Democratic candidate charges towards Nov. 8 in what’s seen as one of the nation’s most competitive governors races this year.

Biden also touched on key Democratic Party issues in his Saturday speech, including raising corporate taxes and lowering the deficit.

Biden arrived in Portland Friday evening and took part in a phone-banking event with union members. Portland marks the president’s last stop in a three-state visit that included Colorado and California.

National polls show 43% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance, a slight rebound from his record-low ratings in late July. His unpopularity is largely attributed to Americans’ concern over soaring consumer prices, a poor omen for the Democratic Party’s overall midterm election chances. Inflation rose by 8.2% this year, mainly driven by food, rent and car expenses.

Leading Oregon Republicans decried the president’s visit as a political stunt to save Democrats in a tough year. Drazan wrote in a statement that Biden’s visit to Portland shows “the D.C. political class is in full panic mode.”

The president’s unpopularity hinders his ability to boost his party’s midterm campaigns. Two Democrats in Oregon’s tightest race for Congress, emergency response manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the 5th District and lawmaker Andrea Salinas in the 6th, didn’t invite Biden to support them in their swing districts.

Biden was also joined on Saturday morning by a host of elected Oregon Democrats including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, House Speaker Dan Rayfield,  Rep. Andrea Valderrama, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, District 2 Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Portland Commissioner Carmen Rubio and Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty.

— Rose Wong,, @rosebwong

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