WTF Democrats! Why Did Ted Cruz Vote Better Than You On Reducing Prescription Drug Costs?
WELP! It looks like I am going to have to call off my engagement to Sen. Cory Booker! Because while he is a very handsome man who seems so nice on social media, and who said a lot of really good stuff Wednesday when he was opposing that gross Jeff Sessions, late last night he joined 12 other Democrats in voting against an amendment proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would have reduced prescription drug costs by allowing us to import cheaper drugs from Canada. Canada's prescription drug costs are significantly cheaper than our own, because they are single payer -- so the whole country is one big insurance group, meaning that they've got better leverage to negotiate prices than our insurance companies do. Of course, in America, Medicare and Medicaid aren't even allowed to negotiate drug prices, for reasons.
This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that last night, the Senate also voted against keeping the provisions requiring that insurers keep people with pre-existing conditions, allow people to remain on their parent's insurance until the age of 26, and make insurance companies cover birth control. Like, basically, we are fucked and it is scary. We know tens of thousands of Americans are going to lose their health insurance (me included, probably!), and this would have at least made medications a little more affordable.
The other Democratic senators who voted against the bill were Michael Bennet (D-CO), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and to my very big surprise and disappointment, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA). Seriously what the hell ladies, you are usually so good!
The amendment failed, 46-52, meaning that it could have passed had these Democratic Senators voted for it. If that's not disappointing enough? You know who DID vote for it? 12 Republicans. Including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John McCain.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
The fact that New Jersey, represented by Booker and Menendez, and Delaware (Coons and Carper), are the home of many pharmaceutical companies is not particularly reason to let them off the hook. I'm sure we'd all love for this not to be a "follow the money" thing, but it is unfortunately looking that way. And Booker -- though I want to love him -- is kind of a darling of Wall Street.
According to data a Reddit user sourced from OpenSecrets.com, here are the donations the senators opposing the amendment received from pharmaceutical companies alone:
Bennett - $396k; Booker - $385k; Cantwell - Nothing under pharma but #3 contributor is "Lobbyists" with $446k; Carper - $225k; Casey - $470k; Coons - $229k; Donnelly - $245k; Heinrich - $150k; Heitkamp - $69k; Menendez - $296k; Murray - $477k; Tester - $135k; Warner - $168k
In addition to speculating that these senators voted against the amendment for the $$$$, it's also being suggested that they voted against it simply to punish Bernie Sanders for having run for president. On the more forgiving side, it is also being noted that many of the constituents of these senators work for these pharmaceutical companies, and that they were looking out for their interests here -- or that they felt that if the amendment went through, it would be easier to dismantle the ACA. (Which would explain not at all why most Dems managed to vote for it.)
We have contacted the offices of senators Booker, Cantwell and Murray, and have yet to hear back. However, Booker's office sent a statement to Jezebel, as did Robert Casey's. Both claimed they voted against the amendment due to safety concerns.
From Booker's office:
I support the importation of prescription drugs as a key part of a strategy to help control the skyrocketing cost of medications. Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test. The rising cost of medications is a life-and-death issue for millions of Americans, which is why I also voted for amendments last night that bring drug prices down and protect Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. I’m committed to finding solutions that allow for prescription drug importation with adequate safety standards.
From Casey's office (again, to Jezebel):
Saw your story and just wanted to follow up to clarify some of the record. Senator Casey’s record is clear: he is a supporter of importation of drugs from Canada since 2007. Last night, Senator Casey supported an amendment by Senator Wyden that would have allowed the importation of drugs from Canada. On a separate amendment, Senator Casey had some concerns about drug safety provisions that couldn’t be resolved in the 10 minutes between the votes. Senator Casey will continue to fight for the safe importation of drugs from Canada.
Given that Sen. Klobuchar proposed this amendment in November, one would think that it would have been possible to raise any concerns about drug safety provisions prior to ten minutes before the vote occurred, no? Especially if this is a thing they felt importantly about. Frankly, I'm a little skeptical about this reasoning -- mostly because I just really doubt that Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken and Tammy Duckworth and all the other best Democrats we've got in the Senate would be voting for something that would endanger the health of consumers. Quite honestly, when it comes to anything involving consumer protection, I'm gonna trust Elizabeth Warren's judgment before anyone else's.
Hopefully, we can take them at their word and believe that they are going to work to import cheaper drugs from Canada. Not just for our own good and the fact that I'm sure we'd all like our prescriptions to cost less -- but also because it's just not a good look. It is not a good look for Ted freaking Cruz to look like he cares more about the sick and the poor than Democrats do. And if they do oppose something that appears to help more Americans afford their health care and prescriptions, they need to be right on the ball with explaining why. And they better have a really good reason.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse