WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-run House plans to vote on ways to lower prescription drug prices and force insurers to provide stronger protection for people with preexisting conditions, marking the next big step in a strategy to make health care part of its 2020 election fight.
Democrats wrapped up their first 100 days in charge of the House this week, and they've been sending the same message over and over: We care deeply about more affordable, accessible health care.
"This is about a value system in our country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said of the Democrats' health care push, "about understanding that health care is a right for all Americans, not just a privilege."
House votes on health care legislation are expected between April 29 and May 24.
The effort reflects a desire among party leaders to show a commitment to health care reform -- and gives some members a way to show support for greater coverage and lower cost without going so far as backing the Medicare For All platform being pushed by lawmakers on the far left.
"That's pragmatic. Most Americans want that. They want a parallel track," said Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and co-sponsor of Medicare for All legislation. "They want us to push for a bold policy track but get done what we can in the meantime."
Republicans scoff at the idea that Democrats are trying to enact policy, and not just generate headlines. So far, said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, "it's 100 days of nothing."
Republicans need 18 seats to win control of the House next year. Democrats need a net gain of four Senate seats to run that chamber, three if the party's presidential candidate defeats President Donald Trump.
The House seats being most closely watched are in 31 districts where Democrats won last year but Trump won in 2016. In the Senate, Democrats are targeting pickups in Georgia, Arizona, Maine and Colorado. The party appears most vulnerable in Alabama.
Polling as well as anecdotal evidence from the campaign trail shows that health care matters, and voters want incremental improvements, not an overhaul.