By David Sirota and Andrew Perez
The three conservative Democratic lawmakers threatening to kill their party’s drug pricing legislation have raked in roughly $1.6m of campaign cash from donors in the pharmaceutical and health products industries. One of the lawmakers is the House’s single largest recipient of pharmaceutical industry campaign cash this election cycle, and another lawmaker’s immediate past chief of staff is now lobbying for drugmakers.
The threat from Democratic representatives Kurt Schrader (Oregon), Scott Peters (California) and Kathleen Rice (New York) comes just as the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbying group announced a seven-figure ad campaign to vilify the Democratic legislation, which aims to lower the cost of medicines for Americans now facing the world’s highest prescription drug prices.
At issue is House Democrats’ initiative to let Medicare use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. That power – which is used by other industrialized countries to protect their citizens from exorbitant prices – has been promised by Democrats for years, and party leaders have been planning to include it as part of their sprawling $3.5tn infrastructure reconciliation effort.
On Wednesday, Schrader, Peters and Rice helped vote the measure down in the powerful energy and commerce committee, blocking the legislation before it could come to the House floor for a vote. Even if the bill were to ultimately make it to the floor through another committee – which remains a possibility – Democrats have only a four-seat majority that allows them to pass legislation, so they can’t afford to lose any more votes.
I understand that the pharmaceutical industry owns the Republican party and that no Republican voted for this bill, but there is no excuse for every Democrat not supporting it,” said the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders after the vote.