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Public Statements

Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2005

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Location: Washington DC


HELP EFFICIENT, ACCESSIBLE, LOW-COST, TIMELY HEALTHCARE (HEALTH) ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 28, 2005)

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, the amendment I sought to offer which was kept out by an objection from the bill's manager would have dealt with the section referred to by the gentleman from Indiana. I also, like the gentleman from Indiana, am prepared to vote for, as I have in the past, some restrictions on medical malpractice.

But what we have in this bill which has not gotten a lot of attention, and the gentleman from Indiana pointed it out, is a total exemption from punitive damages for drug manufacturers who get an FDA approval even though we have seen flaws in the FDA approval process.

What the majority has now made clear, they are insisting that this be taken in whole. The gentleman from Indiana made a good point, an objection to this amendment, and I share his objection. What I do not share is his faith that this is going to be taken care of.

The gentleman from Indiana, my good friend, was uncharacteristically mellow today in accepting an assurance that this will be looked at. I agree it will be looked at. It will be held up to the light. It will be turned upside down, and it will be looked at and looked at and looked at until it is signed into law, and then people will still be able to look at it as the law and those drug companies will have that exemption.

So what I offer today, and one might have thought under democratic procedures this would have been allowed, was simply to vote on that. I was, in the spirit of bipartisanship, acting on the suggestion of the gentleman from Indiana. Forget about everything said about medical malpractice; the amendment I sought to offer and was blocked from offering by that objection, as we were by the Committee on Rules' heavy-handedness, simply would have allowed this body to decide whether as part of a medical malpractice bill you would give an exemption from punitive damages to drug companies. That is not medical malpractice. That is not related to the core of this bill. The majority will not even allow this to be discussed.

I think it is wrong to give that kind of exemption certainly without a lot more consideration, but what is even more wrong is this further abuse of power. The majority simply will not allow this House, like the gentleman from Indiana, elected representatives of the people, to decide on whether or not we give an exemption to the drug manufacturers.

They take medical malpractice, a sympathetic issue, and use it to cloak immunity for the drug manufacturers in part, and then arrogantly refuse to allow the House to vote on it.

Mr. Speaker, I will say what I have said before. We are working with the people of Iraq and we are trying to get them to implement democracy. To the extent anyone from Iraq is watching the proceedings here, I would say to them, Please do not try this at home. Please do not, in the Iraqi Assembly, show the contempt and the disregard and the arrogance for minority rights and democratic procedures, and maybe majority rights. I should amend this. They are not afraid of minority rights; they are afraid if we had an open and honest vote on this that a majority would decide not to let the drug companies carry out under that darkness.

Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 10 seconds.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say I appreciate the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank), who just spoke, voting for this legislation in the last Congress.

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Texas is right. I did vote for this bill last year, because I thought it was about medical malpractice and did not read it carefully. In fact, what happened was I made the mistake last year that the gentleman from Indiana might make this year. I believed that they would honestly talk about medical malpractice, and it did not occur to me they would try to sneak into this bill something that gave partial immunity to the drug manufacturers.

So I admit that I did not read it thoroughly, but I will not when the gentleman is managing bills make that mistake again.

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