Ask Cory Booker & Bob Menendez why they voted down more affordable prescription drugs

UPDATED with Sen. Booker’s statement of 1/13/17 

Senators Cory Booker & Bob Menendez just voted against cheaper prescription drugs, a Bernie Sanders amendment. Want to ask why?
Booker: (202) 224-3224 (DC), 856.338-8922 (Camden), (973) 639-8700 (Newark).
Menendez: (202) 224-4744 (DC), (973)645-3030 (Newark), (856)757-5353 (Barrington).  
Or you can ask them Sunday how much $$ they get from Big Pharma – when both headline a NJ rally to save healthcare organized by Bernie Sanders. Yes, really.


As vmars picked up, 13 Senate Dems – including Booker & Menendez – voted a few hours ago against an amendment that would have allowed pharmacists to import identical—but much less expensive—drugs from Canada and other countries. You can’t ignore the context here:

  • Booker and Menendez voted with the Republican majority here
  • 12 Republicans & 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont & Angus King of Maine) voted for the amendment.
  • This, the same night that Republicans, itching to dismantle Obama’s signature achievement and promises to keep to their base and funders, took their first step for repeal of the ACA (House votes tomorrow).

Reaction came swiftly to the 13 Dems voting against the amendment, co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders and Amy Kobuchar – particularly directed at Booker, whose history-making testimony yesterday against Jeff Sessions made national news, and seemed to define him as a senator of integrity. So why did Cory Booker vote no?

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The vote came during last night’s marathon vote-o-ramawhich began last night and continued into the wee hours this morning. In the middle of it all, came an amendment – co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar – that could have saved Americans dependent on medications considerable money; it was meant to be attached to the budget resolution. Here’s the full roll call.

Call your Senators. Numbers up top. As always, be polite, as their staff will be polite to you.


Late Friday night, Senator Booker issued the following statement posted on Facebook. Forty-six minutes after he posted it, there were 587 shares and 1,236 comments – the vast majority negative. 

To those of you who have reached out to me by phone, email, social media, or otherwise about a vote I took this week related to the importation of prescription drugs: I greatly appreciate your feedback and I’m grateful for your passion.

I support the importation of prescription drugs. It should be part of a strategy to control the skyrocketing cost of medications. Further, we should be willing to try a lot of ways to control drug prices, because we’re going to need a comprehensive approach to truly solve this problem. Many of them will be counter to the desires of the pharmaceutical industry, but just as insurance companies shouldn’t drive health policies, drug companies shouldn’t dictate them either.

Any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure that the drugs coming into this country are safe. The amendment I voted against last week didn’t meet this test. 

Public health leaders have long-stressed the need for strong safety standards coupled with any drug importation plan – everyone from commissioners, top officials, and researchers at the FDA to HHS secretaries under Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton.

Please know how committed I am to finding solutions ‎to the problem of skyrocketing drug prices – it’s a problem I’ve been working to alleviate for years. This is a life-or-death issue for millions of families, particularly seniors and those struggling with chronic health conditions like diabetes or asthma. This is a crisis for countless American families, and it is stretching them to the breaking point. 

That’s why as mayor of Newark, I brought clinics, nonprofits, and drug companies to the table and developed a free drug discount card program that aimed to cut drug costs for under- and un-insured residents of our city.

It’s why I voted this week for measures that bring drug prices down and protect Medicare’s prescription drug benefit.

And it’s why I support and am exploring ways to find more comprehensive solutions to this growing problem, including finally allowing the government, through Medicare, to use their purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices and, of course, allowing for the importation of prescription drugs with adequate safety standards. 
To those who think pharmaceutical industry pressure matters to me — it doesn’t. I work for the people of New Jersey, and have never and will never let any industry influence a vote I make on behalf of the American people.

Thank you again to all who reached out on this issue. ‎Your passion makes a difference.

Comments (15)

  1. Stephen Danley

    Have they publicly stated a reason why? Planning on calling to ask tomorrow.

    Reply
  2. Stephen Danley

    Alright — I called the Camden office. The staffer put me on hold while they pulled up the statement, then read to me a boilerplate language from the Senator’s statement about there not being assurances of the same safety standards for drugs coming across the border. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Darcy Del castillo

      Canada has strict laws over their drug production…it’s a BS answer!

      Reply
      1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

        Not to mention most of the drugs involved are made in America.

        Reply
        1. ken bank

          “Most”, but not all? See my post below, but as far as I’m concerned there is a significant difference between reimporting drugs made in America, and importing drugs made in other countries. Even though they have the same ingredients, they were not made under the same conditions and safety standards.

          Reply
      2. Patience M

        My doctor told me drugs from Canada are 100% safe and he helps patients get them all the time! (He’s helping me.) I take a GENERIC drug that costs me $287 every month even with Medicare, and the same drug is shipped from Canada for $98. Cory, you have lost all my respect. I was a donor and will no longer be, and will fight for your removal.

        Reply
      3. Lorraine

        Canada and Mexico don’t bother me, but I don’t want my drugs from China or Tiwan. Why didn’t Sanders put safeguards in the amendment? Or, even stipulate only drugs from Canada or Mexico?

        Reply
  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    Why is Cory Booker the poster child for today’s bad vote on pharmaceuticals? Bob Menendez cast the same bad vote and he is running for re-election in 2018. Assuming for a moment that he survives his current legal problems, he will be very vulnerable.

    Why should Cory Booker vote with us when his entire political career has proven that he can do and say whatever he wants and still get the support of progressives who fall in love with him all over again as soon as he opens his mouth?

    We have to give Cory Booker a reason to fight for our support by proving that we can actually work together and win something. Bob Menendez’s Senate seat is exactly the kind of low-hanging fruit opportunity that progressives need to scare some sense into the neoliberal Democratic establishment.

    Who will be our statewide standard-bearer in 2018?

    Reply
    1. 12mileseastofTrenton

      Why? Because he is the only one thinking of running for president.

      Reply
  4. ken bank

    I’m getting a lot of conflicted information. One version states that the law would only apply to the reimportation of drugs from other countries which were made in America. Another version is the importation of drugs which were made in other countries. Though they might contain the same ingredients they were not made under the same safety standards. If the former I’m all for it and shame on Cory Booker. If the latter, then Booker was right.

    As far as Bernie is concerned, he’s not perfect either. Given his vote to shield gun manufacturers from liability, I think it reasonable to suppose that if there were as many pharmaceutical companies in Vermont as there are gun manufacturers, he wouldn’t have voted for this law either.

    Reply
  5. PC

    Oh, Dear God!! More of the continuing “purity left” war on Cory Booker?!?! Really?!?! When will you guys learn something about politics? NONE of these amendments had any chance of becoming law. NONE of them! It was all political theatre designed to force one party or the other into embarrassing votes.

    http://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/01/13/the-stupid-war-on-cory-booker/#.WHk1IqsznIU.twitter

    So I guess the other 12 Dems who voted against this are really DINO’s too? Liberals like Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

    Will you guys please grow up. You’re embarrassing the Democratic Party. That is, if you’re even a part of it. You’re certainly not the “base” since we can never count on your votes anyway.

    Reply
    1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      Hey PC –

      “One party or the other”? That’s pretty entertaining, given that this vote was not along party lines.

      It’s pretty boring to have to deal with a comment as vitriolic and condescending as yours is. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t know that while disagreement is welcome here, insults are not. So you can keep your “purity left” and your “when will you guys learn something about politics” and your “grow up” and you’re opinion that we’re “embarrassing the Democratic Party.” It’s lovely that you think you own the Democratic Party, at least to the degree you’re sure we somehow embarrass it. And it’s ironic – as right now, frankly, the Democratic Party is staggering from its year of embarrassing itself.

      So, I wrote this post, and I can assure you I’m as much a part of the Democratic Party as you are. But thanks for playing.

      But to your point, to the degree I can separate it from your punctuation issues, Cory Booker is getting the scrutiny he’s getting right now for two reasons: (1) He’s the only Dem on that list of 13 short-listed at this point for 2020 (2) The sharp contrast between the feckless vote on Sanders-Klobuchar and the rather more impressive moment the day before, testifying against Sessions because of his history, and making (Senate) history taking that action. And I think you know that.

      And ffs, it’s not like we’re the only ones saying this. You cite one link. I just posted seven in this post; there’s plenty more. My point isn’t to overwhelm you with more links than you provided; it is to demonstrate to you that on an issue as important as this one is, there is a spectrum of thought. And if we criticize a politician you have no beef with, perhaps you can find a better way to disagree on the merits without automatically going for the personal insults.

      Good grief, I would have thought y’all would have learned that from a year of the Clinton campaign calling every voter who rejected her some kind of nasty name. But hope springs eternal.

      Reply
      1. PC

        OK. Lets have a pleasant conversation instead. I’m all for it. We’re Dems after all.

        First, currently, whether we like it or not, there are only two viable national political parties in this country, Democrats (liberal, progressive)and Republicans (conservative, reactionary). So, in order to pass progressive legislation, we need majorities of Democrats in statehouses and Congress. Without majorities, we can’t set the agenda, we can’t introduce legislation and we can’t schedule votes.

        Now, the R’s, a minor party in every respect, have had outsized power and influence for the past 40 years. Why? Well, in part because of the far left. The people in the middle, who don’t follow politics as closely as us, but pretty much agree with us on issues, expect the R’s to yell “Dems suck!” But when the left also yells “Dems suck!”, what are they supposed to think? And then they stay home and don’t vote, and we’re stuck with R’s. Just look at the low national turnout in this past presidential election.

        Am I overjoyed that Blue Dogs like a Joe Manchin, or even a Josh Gottheimer got elected? Not really. But I also have to accept the fact that Dems elected from conservative districts will help get us a majority. Part of being a “big tent” party is realizing that Dems from conservative areas aren’t going to be the same as us. But they’ll help give us a majority which makes getting progressive legislation passed way more likely.

        Now, getting back to the current article. The R’s are beginning to repeal the ACA, President Obama’s signature legislation. They are trying to deprive more than 30 million Americans of health insurance and making it completely unaffordable for tens of millions more.

        So who do you chose to attack? The R’s? No, you attack Dems over a nothingburger amendment vote that had no chance of enactment.

        How does that serve any purpose? How does that advance our progressive agenda? How does that educate people in the middle? It’s this kind of thing that drives me crazy.

        Now, when we all get to be like Hawaii or California where Dems control 3/4 of the legislature, feel free to pick off a few conservative D’s. You have my blessing.

        But until then, we need to support every Dem at every level of government whether we agree with them 100% of the time or not. We have no other viable alternative.

        Reply
    2. Mandrake

      “NONE of these amendments had any chance of becoming law.”
      But I guess instead of sending a symbolic message to citizens that he backs this idea he sent a symbolic message to Pharma that he won’t do anything to negatively affect their profits. Either way, he made the wrong choice.

      Reply
  6. Caryn

    I see a lot of excoriating of Corey Booker, et al. I’ve responded in a few comments but I would like to make my own to save time and energy.
    The Klobuchar amendment does not address Canada imports, but rather Canada **and other countries** The drugs I take daily are manufactured in India. Canada does import drugs from the US. But also from India. And Turkey. And various other nations, as well. The drugs are currently manufactured overseas USING FDA GUIDELINES so they can be sold here. The FDA has oversight. The FDA can inspect their facilities (even overseas.) They *have* to follow protocol or their product cannot be sold here. The Amendment does not contain language using these safety measures. Without these protective measures, the company overseas that manufactures the drugs I take, and drugs others take for things like organ rejection, cancer treatments, etc. aren’t required to manufacture to these same standards. So if the insurance companies want to use less expensive drugs, they can. And the drug manufacturers can reduce costs (thereby making less expensive drugs) by shorting protocols or using alternative product in their processes. This puts my life and others’ at risk.
    Klobuchar proposed the amendment to put the Republicans on notice in their efforts to gut the ACA. “We want affordable health care. This is an option we will address.” And so Democrats voted for it. BUT, “we need to have safety and security protocols” is also something they wanted addressed. And so these twelve senators voted “against party” to make sure the protection clause would be an issue in further negotiations.
    I for one am extremely thankful they “broke ranks” (most likely as some of the most respected and progressive of the Democratic party right now) to make sure that I and others in my situation, who require daily doses of drugs, can not only afford them, but can take them safely and without qualm.
    (Oh, and Bernie Sanders received $309,575 from Big Pharma last year while he was campaigning. Second only to Patty Murray. Corey Booker received $56,000, among the lowest of any sitting Senator.)

    So thank you Senator Corey Booker. Thank you Senator Patty Murray. Thank you Senator Senator Maria Cantwell for voting “against” and against the party to make sure I (diabetes), my ex-husband (seizures and heart condition), my grandson’s mother (cancer), children of St. Jude’s Hospital and millions of others have no cause for concern when taking our medications each morning and evening.

    Reply

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