For over a decade, lowering the outrageous prices of prescription drug prices and thereby reining in at least one part of the immoral, inhumane, and inefficient health insurance extortion complex has been a major platform plank of the Democratic Party. Now that that goal is finally within reach, it is once again the so-called “centrists” of the Democratic Party that threaten to derail the entire thing, bought and paid for by Big Pharma lobbyists.
BREAKING: 3 centrist Democrats just tanked the party's signature drug price negotiation bill after a marathon 3-day markup, complicating efforts to pass the whole 3.5T social spending bill. While Dems say they can still include the policy, it's a blow to D efforts to stay united.
— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) September 15, 2021
All three Dems vowing to vote against E&C drug pricing did so: bill stuck as a tie.
Rice/Schrader/Peters — all said no.
Could flip. Wait for final tally.
— Alex Ruoff (@Alexruoff) September 15, 2021
On Wednesday afternoon, Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) announced they would be “no” votes on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s efforts to add a measure to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, allowing the government to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices like governments do it in most Western countries.
Ironically, progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was supposed to secure a seat on the Energy Committee but was pushed aside at the last minute by Democratic leaders like Hakeem Jeffries, who elevated right-winger Kathleen Rice to the committee instead for just this purpose.
The CBO has determined that the proposal, based on H.R. 3, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, would save the government nearly half a trillion dollars and cut drug prices from 57% to 75% — but that wouldn’t be good for the $8.6 trillion dollars in profit that American pharmaceutical companies have leeched from the sick and dying over the past two decades.
So the pharmaceutical lobby’s bought-and-paid-for lickspittles stepped in to kill the measure in committee, claiming that it wasn’t “fiscally responsible” and would “harm the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to create new drugs” — obviously dishonest talking points straight from the desk of pharma lobbyists.
It just so happens that those three Congressmembers have accepted a staggering $1.8 million in donations from the pharmaceutical industry, according to reporting by the Daily Poster. “Peters is currently the House’s top recipient of pharmaceutical industry donations in the 2022 election cycle…Earlier this year, Peters’ campaign saw a surge in donations from pharmaceutical company executives after he organized a letter with nine other Democratic lawmakers informing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that they opposed H.R. 3,” writes Andrew Perez.
UPDATE: Scott Peters, whose family is worth an estimated $60 million, is married to the CEO of a family office whose portfolio company does manufacturing and packaging for pharmaceutical companies https://t.co/B4oKODlsX3 https://t.co/SgnbJS8rNk
— The Daily Poster (@dailyposter) September 15, 2021
Peters has offered up an alternative plan, but one that POLITICO calls a “non-starter” with progressives for being far too generous to the pharmaceutical companies and in so limiting the amount of savings that can then be spent on other dire health needs for the American people.
It is beyond disgusting to see the needs of the American people being tossed aside by the corrupt thralls of the very same industry responsible for killing half a million Americans in the devastating opioid epidemic in favor of corporate profits. But to make matters worse, ever since President Biden took office, the infuriating refrain we hear over and over again is how “centrist” and “moderate” Democrats derail key parts of the Democratic Party agenda on behalf of big business and their corporate donors, no matter how popular the motion is.
And here we are, once again, watching conservative representatives from deep-blue areas torpedoing their own party’s agenda with no pushback or consequences, leaving many to ask what is even the point of voting for Democrats if they aren’t willing to make good on their promises when they have the opportunity to do so?
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.