The pharmaceutical lobby joined forces today with the Senate’s conservative minority and killed legislation empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, which would have saved us $30 billion a year.
Fixty-six senators tried to carry out the will of 85 percent of the public. But they needed 60. (The official vote was 55-42, but pro-negotiation Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid only voted with the conservatives for a procedural reason.)
How could our democracy fail to carry out the people’s demands?
The drug industry’s army of lobbyists and hundreds of millions in cash fed the obstructionist, anti-government attitude of the Senate minority.
As the first plank of the “First 100 Hours” package to be blocked in the Senate, the punditocracy will likely spin this as a “failure” of the new congressional leadership.
But there is no failure in fighting for the public will.
Senate leaders even sought bipartisan compromise, proposing a bill that only “allowed” Medicare to negotiate, instead of the stronger House bill that required negotiation. But that only enticed six Republicans to support the bill. Meanwhile, the White House pledged a veto .
The Bush Administration has never been shy about expanding its executive authority. Yet when Congress tries to give the Administration more flexibility in negotiating drug prices, they are fighting it at every step.
Senate conservatives were not interested in bipartisan governing, only in obstruction on behalf of the special interest.
The Senate leadership can hold their heads high. The disgrace of denying democracy belongs to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky., and the other conservative senators who have to face the voters in 2008:
- Lamar Alexander, Tenn.
- Saxby Chambliss, Ga.
- Thad Cochran, Miss.
- John Cornyn, Texas
- Larry Craig, Idaho
- Elizabeth Dole, N.C.
- Pete Domenici, N.M.
- Michael Enzi, Wyo.
- Lindsey Graham, S.C.
- Jim Inhofe, Okla.
- Pat Roberts, Kan.
- Jeff Sessions, Ala.
- Ted Stevens, Alaska
- John Sununu, N.H.
- John Warner, Va.