Late tonight, Sen. Cory Booker posted to his Facebook page why he says are his reasons for voting No on an amendment that would have made lower-cost prescription medications more accessible (how much cheaper? check here). Booker’s post is below. The amendment, co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, would have allowed Americans to buy cheaper drugs from Canada. Americans are in favor of this, by a wide margin.
As you know, 13 Dems voted No, including both our senators, Booker and Menendez – plus Bennet, Booker, Cantwell, Carper, Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Heinrich, Heitkamp, Murray, Tester, and Warner. Cory Booker is absorbing virtually all the heat. Why? Two reasons: (1) He’s the only one on the short list for 2020 (2) Of everyone in the Senate, Booker gets the 3rd biggest haul from Big Pharma (check this chart). Amazingly, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul both voted for the amendment.
Booker’s getting creamed for this, coming hours after an action that also made national news but was better-received, testifying against his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, because of Sessions’ racist history. Finally he posted a late, late Friday ‘explanation.’ It’s 10 paragraphs, but I’ll boil it down for you: He claims to be worried about the safety of those drugs. Folks, there’s no bad drug crisis in Canada. And the thousands of sharply critical responses to him reflect that. If he meant his Friday night news-dump to escape scrutiny, it backfired. Social media’s all over him:
In 41 minutes, 521 shares and 1,256 comments – most very negative
In 52 min: 675 shares and 1,437 comments – most very negative
In 1 hour, 922 shares and 1,956 comments – most very negative
In 80 minutes, 1,088 shares and 2,338 comments – most very negative
Plus – all of these articles – from a spectrum of publications – came out the last couple dozen hours. There are many more besides these:
Why Cory Booker’s Late-Night Vote on Drug Importation Is Attracting So Much Negative Attention – New York Magazine
Cory Booker’s Conscience – Jacobin
Cory Booker is not your friend – New Republic
Cory Booker and a Bunch of Democrats Prove Trump Right on Big Pharma – HuffPo
Cory Booker’s Bogus Excuse Betrays Progressives – Observer
Americans Want to Buy Cheaper Medicine From Canada. Why Did 13 Democrats Vote Against Letting Them? – Slate
Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine from Canada – The Intercept
Late Friday night, Senator Booker issued the following statement posted on Facebook:
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.