Wednesday night, senators again stayed up late to not draw as much attention to the fact that they are moving forward on stripping health care away from millions of Americans. During this meeting, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed an amendment to import prescription drugs from Canada in order to drive down their prices in the United States.
Sen. Sanders’ amendment looked to:
“…Establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lowering prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.”
The amendment was not expected to pass, due to the GOP-controlled Senate, but how it actually failed is a little surprising.
Twelve Republican senators actually broke from their party’s stance, voting in favor of the amendment. Some of the high profile Republicans who voted in favor of the amendment include Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
However, thirteen Democratic senators voted against the proposal from Sanders, shutting the door on the amendment. The following Democratic senators voted against it:
- Michael Bennett (D-CO)
- Cory Booker (D-NJ)
- Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- Tom Carper (D-DE)
- Bob Casey (D-PA)
- Chris Coons (D-DE)
- Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
- Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
- Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
- Bob Menedez (D-NJ)
- Patty Murray (D-WA)
- Jon Tester (D-MT)
- Mark Warner (D-VA)
It could have been a win against a GOP Senate majority, which seems like it could be extremely rare in the coming months. However, the amendment failed to pass on a vote of 46-52. Lee Fang, reporter for The Intercept, expressed his frustration with the outcome:
Incredible: Cory Booker & several other Dems join GOP maj in voting down Bernie amendment on importing cheaper drugs https://t.co/yb8N1PRYjp
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) January 12, 2017
Incredible indeed. So why did senators like Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who has been championing himself as a progressive leader, vote against the measure? Booker claims it is because the amendment lacked protections for drug safety standards:
.@LaurenLovesWI I unequivocally support drug imports to lower cost but plan must include protections so foreign drugs meet safety standards.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 12, 2017
While Booker’s reasoning may be true, Jezebel notes that many of the Democrats who voted against the bill were some of the top Senate recipients of pharmaceutical contributions from 2010-2016. Booker himself received $267,338 from pharmaceutical companies during that period, third most in the Senate behind only Republican senators Orrin Hatch (I-Utah) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The outrageous prices of prescription drugs, along with the seemingly inevitable destruction of the Affordable Care Act, will continue to make affordable health care an impossibility for a large number of Americans.
Check out the complete list of which senators supported the amendment and which voted against it here.