Thursday, April 19, 2007

Democrats Respond To GOP Filibuster of Medicare Drug Bill

Almost making the case for why a whole bunch of them should not be reelected in 2008, Republican Senators this week filibustered popular legislation that would have given Medicare the ability to negotiate for lower drug prices for seniors. This came as no surprise to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who last week accused the Republicans of being "owned by the pharmaceutical industry" and Senate Democrats weighed in with their reactions yesterday.

Majority Leader Reid

"Democrats are working to allow prescription-drug price negotiations in Medicare so that it works as well as it can for seniors, people with disabilities, and taxpayers in Nevada and across America. In blocking this bill from even being debated, Senate Republicans have resorted to obstructionism in an effort to protect the drug industry at the expense of our seniors.

"This common-sense bill makes Medicare drug plans more accountable, improves information about which drugs are effective, and empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the bargaining power of Medicare's 43 million beneficiaries. 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."

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

“I am extremely disappointed by the Senate’s failure to take up a bill that would have placed the needs of seniors ahead of the profits of the health industry. Once again, a minority of the Senate has allowed the power and the profits of the pharmaceutical industry to trump good policy and the will of the American people.

“We have a major crisis in this nation, and that is the rising cost of health care… Allowing the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices in the Medicare program would have been an important step forward in this regard. When you look at the prices the federal government has negotiated for our veterans and military men and women, it is clear that the government can – and should – use its leverage to lower prices for our seniors as well.

“Drug negotiation is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do, and it is unconscionable that we were not take up this bill today.”

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

“The Medicare prescription drug bill was written by the drug companies and for the drug companies. Commonsense tells us that if Medicare, which represents 43 million people and billions of taxpayer dollars, could negotiate on the free market, seniors and taxpayers would obviously save money.

"It’s amazing to me that Republicans support the VA negotiating on behalf of veterans, but will not support Medicare negotiating for seniors. Today’s vote was a disgrace and I intend to press hard on this issue on behalf of seniors in Massachusetts and elsewhere.”

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

"Our seniors deserve affordable drug prices and we owe it to them to improve Medicare Part D. That means letting the federal government leverage its purchasing power to lower drug prices, and putting in place the strong transparency requirements needed to identify savings opportunities and make sure we pass these savings on to seniors. Standing in the way of commonsense reforms is only going to keep seniors from getting the affordable prices they were promised under this program. Our work is not over and I will do what it takes to shed some light on drug pricing and give Medicare the tools it needs to get these costs down."

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

"The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is taking bigger bites than ever out of Social Security checks and life savings. Meanwhile, drug industry profits have soared as they take advantage of legislation that is unfairly tilted toward company bottom lines, not seniors' health.

"It's time for Congress to put the needs of seniors first. Yet what did our Republican colleagues do today? They blocked us from debating a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate to get better drug prices. Time and again, the interests of the drug industry are put ahead of the interests of the elderly."

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

"Today the Senate had the opportunity to remedy this problem and politics won out over providing affordable prescription drugs to our seniors. This is a matter of fairness for our seniors, who deserve affordable prices for their prescription drugs. And it is a matter of fairness for America's taxpayers, who pay 75 percent of the bill for Medicare Part D."

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

"Seniors across Washington state have shared their concerns with me over the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program. They have continuously asked me to explore ways that they can better access and afford the drugs that they depend on. Unfortunately, today Senate Republicans denied our ability to even debate ways to change the program.

"In 2003, I voted against the Medicare Part D program because I recognized it was a flawed plan that would not fully serve our seniors. Since that time I have been traveling across Washington state gathering information from residents on ways to improve Medicare Part D and to lower drug prices for the over 800,000 Medicare recipients in our state.

"Unfortunately, as today's actions show, Senate Republicans are more interested in protecting the drug industry then in finding ways to benefit more of our seniors."