Dorgan Halts Senate Health Care Debate Until He Gets Reimportation Vote

Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

The big story here is not that the White House wants to crush Byron Dorgan’s reimportation amendment and hold up their deal with Big PhRMa – that’s been clear for a while. The big news is that Dorgan’s fighting back:

The White House, aided by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), is working hard to crush an amendment being pushed by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to allow for the reimportation of pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, Senate sources tell the Huffington Post.

As a result, the Senate health care debate has come to a standstill: Carper has placed a “hold” on Dorgan’s amendment and in response, Dorgan tells HuffPost, he’ll object to any other amendments being considered before he gets a vote on his.

The pharmaceutical industry, aided by the White House, is strong-arming as many Democrats as possible into voting against reimportation, because it would blow up the Big PhRMa deal and risk blowing up the whole bill. Jay Rockefeller, formerly Jay Rock and now just Jay Rockefeller, has been taken in by this tactic:

They’ve succeeded with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). “I don’t think that’s going to get my vote,” he said when HuffPost asked about the reimportation amendment. He said that even though he is a supporter of reimportation, he is concerned that if it passes it could blow everything up.

“I’m not messing around with anything without 60 votes. Nothing,” he said. “And I’m a co-sponsor of the amendment.”

Then there’s the catty sniping:

The dispute within the Democratic caucus is becoming personal. “Of course, with Dorgan, it’s all about Dorgan,” a senior Democratic aide told HuffPost, complaining that Dorgan was willing to blow up health care reform for his own glory.

Right, and who exactly is trying to lower drug prices for millions of Americans, and who is trying to sign a piece of paper with the word “health care reform” on it? Who exactly is the one looking for glory here?

Good for Dorgan to stop business on the bill until he gets a vote. The bigfooting and constant protection of industry profits (the VP of PhRMa, Ken Johnson, literally says in the article they oppose the amendment because it would cut into drug industry profits) has got to stop.

And this from the President is laughable:

Publicly, President Obama continues to support reimportation, as he did during the campaign.

“The President supports reimportation of safe and effective drugs. He made that clear in his FY 2010 budget, which included $5 million to enable the FDA to begin developing policy options,” reads a statement from the White House. “The Food and Drug Administration has raised safety concerns about the current proposal and will continue exploring policy options to create a pathway to importing safe and effective drugs.”

The policy is written. There’s no need for “policy options”. The safety concerns are complete bunk and scare tactics.

Good for Byron Dorgan.

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