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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2008, Continued --

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008, Continued -- (Senate - October 17, 2007)

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I will call up amendment No. 3328 which is at the desk, but in the interim, before I actually call it up and make it pending, I wish to discuss the Vitter amendment No. 3328. Hopefully, in a relatively short period of time, we can actually call it up and make it pending.

This amendment is very simple and very straightforward. In fact, it is something this body has seen before on other bills and has strongly voted for before. It simply prohibits any funds in this appropriations bill from being used to block the reimportation of safe prescription drugs from Canada.

All of us know that sky-high prescription drug prices are a very troubling burden every American family faces. Certainly literally every family I deal with in Louisiana deals with this issue in some form or fashion, often in the context of trying to help elderly parents or grandparents or others with very significant prescription drug costs.

One partial solution to that huge challenge is to allow American consumers to buy prescription drugs in person or through mail order or the Internet from Canada, because precisely the same prescription drugs are available in Canada--in all cases at a dramatically lower cost.

Unfortunately, in this country we have had Federal law that prevents American consumers from doing that in most cases. This amendment and other full-blown bills, some introduced by myself, others introduced by other leaders on the issue, such as Senators Dorgan and Snowe, would lift those prohibitions and allow American consumers their rightful access to safe, cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

This amendment is being brought on this appropriations bill for a very simple and legitimate reason. Under the current administration there has been a task force established under the Department of Health and Human Services. That task force was specifically established to coordinate all Federal Government activity by the administration to block reimportation of drugs from Canada and elsewhere. That is governed under the Department of Health and Human Services. That is organized under that Department which is governed by this bill, so this amendment will simply say: No funds in this bill going to the Department can be used for that purpose. That task force has to quit its operation. None of that money can go to support the activity of that task force, which is specifically designed to block American consumers from getting safe, cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere.

At this point I believe it has been cleared so I wish to formally call up amendment No. 3328 and make it pending.

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, this is virtually exactly the same amendment I proposed with Senator Nelson to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. That amendment was agreed to in the Senate 68 to 32 on July 11, 2006, and was subsequently signed into law. More recently, this year we came back to the Senate floor with the same amendment on this year's Homeland Security Appropriations bill and that was agreed to by unanimous consent. So the Senate has spoken. The Senate has spoken strongly, by a vote of 68 votes or more, in support of what an even larger percentage of the American people want, and that is free, unfettered access to safe, cheaper drugs from Canada and elsewhere.

This amendment is very simple. It says none of the funds in this act, in this bill before us, can be used to stop Americans from getting the safe, cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. The amendment is very specific to Canada only.

This amendment will take us along the path toward full-blown drug reimportation. Last year we had success in allowing Americans to carry on their person these prescriptions drugs from Canada. This amendment would go further and allow that, not only on an individual American citizen's person, but also by mail order or the Internet, as long as that American citizen is not in the business of wholesaling and selling prescription drugs, as long as it is for his or her personal use.

I hope the Senate, both sides of the aisle come together as we have in the past with a strong, overwhelming majority--in the past it has been 68 votes or more--and pass this amendment and say enough is enough. Let's establish this regime of safe reimportation from Canada and elsewhere. Let's push the administration to put forward the safety mechanisms that they absolutely have the authority and ability to help lower the cost of prescription drugs for all American citizens, particularly our seniors.

I urge my colleagues to join me in this amendment.

I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I rise today to discuss a project I sponsored in the fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health, Human Services and Education appropriations bill. The project, which would develop a plan to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by the Louisiana Family Forum, has raised concerns among some that its intention was to mandate and push creationism within the public schools. That is clearly not and never was the intent of the project, nor would it have been its effect. However, to avoid more hysterics, I would like to move the $100,000 recommended for this project by the subcommittee when the bill goes to conference committee to another Louisiana priority project funded in this bill.

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