President Donald Trump signed a bill Wednesday that would give the U.S. government billions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to companies that manufacture and distribute drugs to the health care system.
The president signed the bill in the Oval Office flanked by his wife, Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence, who is attending a meeting of the Association of American Pharmaceutical Scientists.
The measure gives the president tax credits for new drug sales of up to $1 billion in a year, and up to an additional $2 billion per year in the first three years.
The incentives will be available for drug companies that are part of a national pharmaceutical alliance, as well as those with annual revenues of $1.5 billion or more.
The bill also gives the President the authority to impose tax penalties on companies that fail to meet certain standards of quality and safety for their products.
It will not apply to Medicare or Medicaid, the health insurance programs for the poor.
Trump signed the measure shortly after meeting with pharmaceutical executives in the White House Rose Garden.
The president had planned to meet with the CEOs of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies in his first days in office.
Trump had been looking to help companies that had faced steep cost-cutting measures in the wake of the opioid crisis.
But as he watched his former chief of staff, Anthony Scaramucci, announce he would resign, the White Senate office confirmed he would sign the bill, which was written by a former Goldman Sachs executive, and which has the support of pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, CVS Caremark, and Johnson & Johnson.
The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate will consider it next week.
A few dozen people gathered outside the Oval, waiting to speak to the president, including two people who wore masks and were covered in dust.
They included two former employees of Pfizer who had worked for the company and who spoke about their experiences during the crisis.
The legislation was crafted by the President’s legislative team, including the White Capitol Office, the office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, according to the White Office.
It was authored by former White House economic adviser Steven Mnuchin, who worked for Pfizer and was a lobbyist for the drug companies.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill Tuesday.
The legislation now goes to the Senate floor for debate.
Trump’s signing ceremony came after the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill.
Democrats, who control the Senate, have said they will hold a vote on the measure in coming days, with a vote expected on Wednesday.