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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (Senate - July 09, 2009)

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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, as the manager of this bill, who has been very cooperative, and others on the floor know, I have been working hard to get a vote on my reimportation amendment. It is a very simple, straightforward amendment. It is a limitation amendment--at least it will be once it is perfected and modified. In fact, it is an amendment that has passed the Senate before, in 2006. So it is not new. It has actually passed the Senate before.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the issue and, in fact, because of the powerful nature of the pharmaceutical interests who oppose this amendment, this is being blocked using every procedural tool in the book. That is unfortunate, but it seems as if that is going to be the case.

If I cannot get a fair hearing and a fair vote on this amendment, I am going to use the procedural tools available to me to block votes on other nongermane amendments, on other amendments that are subject to points of order--which I think are most, if not all, of the other pending amendments.

At this point, given the fairly certain nature of certain Members' fierce opposition to this reimportation provision, I simply suggest we move forward and not waste folks' time. I am certainly amenable to moving to dispense with any pending amendment which is germane, which does not have a point of order against it, move through those and then move to final passage of the bill as quickly as possible. I am certainly open to that and would encourage that and would like to move forward in that vein.

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AMENDMENT NO. 1467 TO AMENDMENT NO. 1458

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I certainly share the desire to move forward and resolve these issues and go through these votes. In that vein, I send to the desk a second-degree amendment to the Dodd amendment.

This is a straight limitation amendment. It is a germane amendment with no points of order against it, which would simply enact legislation that the Senate enacted in 2006 with regard to reimportation.

I would be happy to explain the amendment more fully if it is appropriate to have a debate either now or in the near future on it. But again, it enacts language that was previously enacted by the Senate in 2006. It is a straight limitation amendment, which is germane, and does not have points of order against it.

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I wish to present my second-degree amendment.

In a few minutes we will be voting on the Vitter second-degree amendment to the Dodd amendment. This is very straightforward and is something this body has considered very directly before. This amendment simply prohibits funds in the bill from being used by Customs and Border security to prevent the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada only and for personal use only. So it is a reimportation amendment but only from Canada and only for personal use. It is very limited in that regard.

Also, it only limits funds with regard to enforcement by Customs and Border security. There are numerous other agencies in the Federal Government, such as the Justice Department and many law enforcement agencies, which regularly are in the business of going after counterfeits and other problems in the drug trade. This amendment doesn't limit that activity in any way because it only impacts Customs and Border security.

Finally, this exact amendment was considered and passed by the Senate in July of 2006. It was not only passed by the Senate, but that Vitter amendment, essentially identical, was adopted 68 to 32. A few months later, modified language passed the entire Congress. It was somewhat modified, but it passed the entire Congress and is law now.

So based on all that history, I urge a strong bipartisan vote in favor of this amendment as we had in 2006. I reserve the remainder of my time.

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Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to my friend's amendment.

For the past several years, there has been a provision in this appropriations bill that says that Customs and Border Protection cannot stop an individual from bringing in on their person 90 days' worth of a prescription drug from Canada. While I am not crazy about that language, it has been law for some time and codifies what had been an existing practice at the border. However, my colleague from Louisiana is proposing to radically alter what happens at the border.

This amendment is bad policy, and I hope our colleagues will vote against it. It is not adequate to protect the public health, and it will not keep Americans safe.

This amendment would strike three important elements of existing law. Instead of just individuals, anyone could bring in drugs. There would be no license required for businesses to get into this line of work. There would be no inspections of their facilities, no minimum qualifications, no background checks, no limits on resale, no oversight whatsoever. This would be an open door for criminals to get into Americans' medicine cabinets.

The amendment removes the limit on the method of importation. Instead of bringing in the drugs on your person, you could do it by mail order or more likely via the Internet. This creates a problem with drugs coming not from Canada but through Canada. Many of the drugs ordered online today are purported to be from Canada, but when GAO and others investigate, they are found to be from other countries.

Finally, there would be no limits on the quantities permitted to be imported. Canada has only one-tenth the population of the United States. They cannot serve as our pharmacy. The drugs will be sourced from somewhere else. It is inevitable. While many people may be comfortable with drugs from Canada, I doubt they will have the same level of comfort with drugs from Pakistan, China, or Malta. There is nothing in this amendment to ensure that the drugs come from Canada, but there is every incentive for them not to come from Canada.

Most Americans who turn to imported drugs do so because of cost, but a counterfeit, tainted, or substandard drug is unsafe at any price. As we consider the issue of drug importation, the safety of our citizens must be our primary concern.

I support finding ways to reduce the cost of drugs but never at the expense of safety. So I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment.

It is a well-intentioned amendment, I am sure. I care a great deal for my colleague, but I think we should oppose it and vote it down.

I yield the floor.

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I wish to briefly address some of the issues brought up by my distinguished colleague from Utah.

First, this amendment is only about individuals, and you can look at the clear language of the amendment. It is about individuals, not corporations, not mega businesses, not anything else but individuals.

Secondly, it is only about personal use. It is only about businesses not in the business of importing prescription drugs. So these individuals cannot be in that business, cannot be in that activity as a business. We specifically refer to the relevant portion of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, section 801(g).

Third, it is for personal use because of that limitation.

Fourth, we are only limiting funds that go through border security for this purpose, not any other law enforcement agency; and there are many that are involved in the fight against counterfeits and other things, including the Department of Justice.

Fifth, and finally, this language was passed by this body in 2006 by a strong bipartisan vote of 68 to 32 and, as Senator Hatch said, a modified version was actually passed into law and has operated in law for 3 years, with no apparent safety problems that we are aware of.

I yield back my time and look forward to the vote.

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