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Meet the 13 Democrats Who Opposed Lowering Drug Prices

Sen. Booker’s explanation is not convincing

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center left, laughs with then-senate candidate Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Newark charter schools.(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

On Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) submitted an amendment intended to tackle the epidemic of high drug prices in the United States. The amendment would have established a “deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.”

High drug prices were a major issue in the Presidential primaries. Sanders made lowering prescription drugs a key campaign issue. Sanders championed the idea as far back as 1999 when he became the first member of Congress to host a bus trip to purchase cancer medications north of the border at a fraction of the price. After his successful trip, many Democrats followed suit.

In a Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats needed the support of some Republicans for a chance to have this amendment passed. They got that support from unexpected allies across the aisle; 12 Republicans supported the amendment, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Nevertheless, the amendment failed with a final vote of (52-46) – thanks in part to 13 Democrats who sided with the Republican majority and the interests of Big Pharma.

Meet the 13 Democrats who voted against reducing drug prices

Campaign contributions from Big Pharma appear to have a strong correlation with the voting behavior of Democratic Senators on this bill. Based on records from OpenSecrets.org, seven of the Senators who voted against the bill were in the top ten recipients of contributions from Big Pharma among Democratic Senators.

Top Democratic Senators Recipients of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (Source: OpenSecrets.org)

Most notable in this group is Cory Booker (D-NJ). The Senator gained a lot of praise for testifying against Jeff Sessions, who has been accused of racism and having a poor record on voting rights and criminal justice reform. Booker has also been touted as a likely nominee in the 2020 presidential Democratic primaries.

However, Booker has very close ties with pharmaceutical companies. He was the top recipient of contributions from pharmaceutical companies during his Senate elections, more than any other candidate in either party. Booker also gave remarks at an event for pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.

This is another case where big money in politics from special interests has more voting power than average Americans. According to a 2015 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72 percent of Americans support this amendment and an equal number believe that drug costs are unreasonable.

Sen. Booker responded to the criticism with a tweet claiming that he does support importing from Canada. His rationale for opposing the amendment, he claims, is that he felt that the amendment didn’t meet “basic FDA requirements.”

The amendment’s text, however, states that imported prescription drugs must be “safe and affordable,” and conducted by “American pharmacists, wholesalers, and individuals with a valid prescription from a provider licensed to practice in the United States.”

In addition, Health Canada and the FDA conduct regulatory cooperation activities under the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), which was established by President Obama and ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The joint agreement is intended to “protect the safety and welfare” of the citizens of both countries. The two administrations work closely together to “harmonize and align their pre and post-marketing surveillance requirements and standards.”

Sen. Booker didn’t clarify why he didn’t request for the language to be strengthened if he felt that the text wasn’t sufficient to meet his requirements.

Written by Salam Morcos

Salam Morcos is a Managing Editor of Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

Political activist for democracy, social justice, racial justice, women's right and human rights.

13 Comments

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  1. Every last one of those Democrats who voted against Bernie’s bill were superdelegates who pledged for Hillary in the primary. At least one of them is under indictment for bribery and corruption (Menendez). This is the kind of people we need to remove from power. And we need to get rid of the superdelegates completely. We don’t need a handful of corrupt “elites” deciding who our Democratic candidate will be. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Democratic_Party_superdelegates,_2016 http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/menendez-loses-in-appeals-court-228127

  2. As far as I am concerned none of these people have the American people’s best interest within their hearts. They are rats and traitors, as if we arn’t going thru enough with the Republicans.

  3. They did it to undermine Bernie to prevent his powerful base from interfering in their plans for 2020. We have got to stop these people. The Democratic party still doesn’t respect Bernie’s followers or these people would have gone out of their way to make sure this passed. That would have shown Bernie’s power – but Bernie isn’t a Democrat so they will be disrespecting him every chance they get.

    • I believe there may be a new party forming, a Justice Party, or a Workers Party, or best bet is to get behind the Green party. Read its platform. It is everything that progressives have been saying that the Democratic corporate party is not. The D and the Rs are simply the same right wings of a bird. Where is the balance? We need true democracy-loving representatives, not pretend on-the-take-from the 1% two-faced, lying hypocrites.

  4. Traitors, every one of them. It is time they were thrown out of the Party for being Republicans in disguise. Time to drag these scumbags’ worthless carcasses into the street and show them who’s boss.

  5. The Domocratic Party has finally lost me after this year, and I realize now that I am not alone by a large number. The teo faced Hypocrosy of my elected Democrat party legislatures has turned me off for the rest of my life. Independent now..Goodby.

  6. Okay- so this is an example of “Please do your homework” (and I mean ME) Care on the web is mandatory: From Politico: “… However, the image leaves a misleading impression that the senators have voted against lowering drug prices. In reality, all 13 senators voted in favor of a different amendment that specifically advocated “lower drug prices.” In addition, the dollar amounts listed for the senators use an overly broad definition of “big pharma,” inflating the amount of money they have taken from the industry. The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.” I do agree, however, health care in the USA, including getting medicine, is absolutely ridiculous, and I’m in favor of Medicare for All, enough already. I was surprised to see Bennett (Colo senator) voting against lowering drug prices, so I did a little bit of following up- hence the Politico info.

    https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/18/other-98/viral-image-about-democratic-senators-and-big-phar/

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SPLASH! Recap of January 11, 2017

Meet the 13 Democrats Who Opposed Lowering Drug Prices