UPDATE: So the White House, after first confirming it, says there was no deal. Who to believe?
Yes, the president who didn't want to get involved in the details was actually quite involved, and in a way that severely hobbles Congressional efforts. I wonder exactly what time period the Obama commitment covers. Is it for an indefinite period? Because drug companies can simply jack up their prices again to cover the difference:
WASHINGTON — Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.
Drug industry lobbyists reacted with alarm this week to a House health care overhaul measure that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers.
In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement.
“We were assured: ‘We need somebody to come in first. If you come in first, you will have a rock-solid deal,’ ” Billy Tauzin, the former Republican House member from Louisiana who now leads the pharmaceutical trade group, said Wednesday. “Who is ever going to go into a deal with the White House again if they don’t keep their word? You are just going to duke it out instead.”
A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.
“The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote. “He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.”
The new attention to the agreement could prove embarrassing to the White House, which has sought to keep lobbyists at a distance, including by refusing to hire them to work in the administration.
The White House commitment to the deal with the drug industry may also irk some of the administration’s Congressional allies who have an eye on drug companies’ profits as they search for ways to pay for the $1 trillion cost of the health legislation.
[...] In an interview on Wednesday, Representative Raul M. Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who is co-chairman of the House progressive caucus, called Mr. Tauzin’s comments “disturbing.”
“We have all been focused on the debate in Congress, but perhaps the deal has already been cut,” Mr. Grijalva said. “That would put us in the untenable position of trying to scuttle it.”