Cory Booker Friday Night News-Dumps His No Vote on the Sanders-Klobuchar Amendment

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 friendNew 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.

Comments (9)

  1. Linda Coolsen

    Bullshit, Cory, all politispeak. Your quest to find “better” ways to lower drug prices cut just as much truth as the Republicans plans for a better national health insurance, which of course, has been taking 7+ years. And concern that Canadian drugs might not reach US safety standards? Please! Such a pathetic excuse. Big Pharma really has you in its pocket, right Cory? So disappointed in what I was thinking was the rightful inheritor of our great president, Barack Obama. And Menendez is no better. Better think long and hard about your ambitions, Senator, and see if they are going up the same self serving route as those across the aisle.

    1. 12mileseastofTrenton

      The safety line is the same one used by Big Pharma. It’s BS.

  2. Lorraine Miller

    You need to accept the citizens input and reject the money who want to line their pockets at the expense of the citizens.

  3. KB

    I called Menendez’s office in DC and the girl couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough and despite me asking for a direct response didn’t ask for my contact information.

    When I called the Newark office the man there was polite and read me Menendez’s official statement saying there was no proof this would lower prices. Total BS and I told him so. I told him to vote for it and fix it later if need be.

    I also told him that if Menendez wasn’t one of the leaders fighting against trump and his billionaires I would raise money for his opponent come election time and do anything I could to vote him out.

    Booker needs to have his feet put to the fire. It’s looking like he’s too interested in headlines and donations than helping the real people.

    1. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

      To KB –
      I strongly suggest that if you want a response from Sen. Menendez that you put your concerns in writing and send a letter, most effectively to his congressional office. You may get a form reply back. But it’s not likely that an issue with the level of call volume this is generating that you will get a letter back, individually written by the senator. [Don’t be inflamed by that, the important thing is that they hear from many people – staff takes a count of this, and if you’re calling the D.C. office, chances are the senator is in the office as the phone is ringing off the hook, and I can’t over-emphasize the impact of that].

  4. PPElectra

    I am going to go against the grain and say we are living in Trumpkremlica now. I am going to support every Dem no matter what unless it is someonething totally outrageous. I will give Booker and others a big break that I would not have before but the GOP for the last 15 to 20 have won by not eating their own. Dems need to band together to fight Trumpkremlicans, period.

    1. T. M. Kara

      What a cop out that kind of thinking is! I will support the Democrat no matter what they do! I will fight the Trumpkremlicans! For what? So that the Dems can continue to shaft the working class just as badly as the Republicans? How about this instead: work to get the fake corporate skuzzbag Democrats out of office, replacing them with real Democrats who stand for New Deal principles?

  5. ken bank

    I’m reposting a comment from another Blue Jersey post on this subject, which I think explains everything better than any other post or comment I’ve read about this subject. I hope everybody gets a chance to read it, because the author clearly is knowledgeable on what I think we should all agree is a very complex matter, especially with regard to health and safety issues which are not “BS”. As to Cory Booker, he is not a progressive, but a centrist/moderate who will vote with progressives on some issues but not on others. However, I don’t see this particular issue as being one of progressives v. conservatives given that other progressives like Patty Murray voted against this bill as well, and that progressives have consistently opposed the importation of any product manufactured abroad that did not meet the same health and safety standards that manufacturers have to comply with in this country. So I’m giving Cory Booker the benefit of the doubt on this one, especially since I also have to take several prescriptions, and I wouldn’t take anything or give anything to my children that wasn’t manufactured under the exact same standards as prescriptions made in this country, even if it means paying more for it:

    “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.”

  6. marshwren

    An earlier excused floated by Booker was that he voted for the Wyden bill that addressed some of the issues Booker raises in his apologia. When it was voted down, Booker voted against the Sanders-Klobucher bill, which was also voted down (rather infamously). Ironically, Wyden voted for it. I rather imagine that says something.


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