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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009--Resumed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009--Resumed -- (Senate - December 15, 2009)

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana is recognized.

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise to strongly support and urge all of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to support the upcoming Dorgan reimportation amendment which we will be voting on later today and, just as important, to oppose the Lautenberg amendment which, as everyone knows, is a poison pill to reimportation and is simply and surely a way to absolutely kill for all practical purposes the real Dorgan reimportation language.

To me, this is a crystal-clear choice, and it is the sort of choice the American people are really interested in and really watching. It is a choice between doing something that can make a difference in people's lives, something that can help people, that can solve a real problem in health care by doing something in a focused way or we can choose to keep to the big political deal that was made inside the beltway, inside the White House with the pharmaceutical industry. That is the choice. This is really a choice between voting for the American people or voting for politics as usual in Washington. That is what it all comes down to.

On the positive side, reimportation is a very real and very effective solution to a real problem. The problem is obvious. The problem is sky-high prescription drug prices--the highest in the world--that we as Americans pay. These same drugs are sold around the world, and in many different cases--in virtually every case--we pay the highest prices in the world right here in the United States even though we have the biggest marketplace for prescription drugs. That is the system we are trying to break up. So I want and supporters of this amendment want a true free market in prescription drugs, a world price that will lower the U.S. price and dramatically help U.S. consumers.

It is not just supporters of this amendment and this concept who are making these arguments; it is unbiased sources such as the Congressional Budget Office and others. The Congressional Budget Office says this amendment--this reimportation concept will save the Federal Government money, significant money, some $18 billion or more. And besides the savings to the Federal Government, the savings to the U.S. consumer are much greater--$80 billion or more.

So that is the positive choice--doing something real about a real problem. That is what the American people want us to do. They want us to focus on the real problems that exist in health care and attack those real problems in a focused way.

The other alternative is to keep the political deal, to vote yes for politics as usual in Washington. Tragically, that is what is represented by the political deal that was struck on this global health care bill between the White House and the White House's allies here in the Senate and the big pharmaceutical industry. It has been widely reported--it is no secret--that there was a deal between these bodies. The pharmaceutical industry agreed to support the President's initiative, putting as much as $150 million of TV advertising cash behind that support, if the White House would completely change its position on reimportation and other key points.

The record is clear: When President Obama served right here with us in the U.S. Senate, he was completely for reimportation. As a Presidential candidate, he campaigned vigorously for reimportation. Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, when he served in the U.S. House, was strongly for reimportation. But now, all that is off because Washington politics as usual has stepped in the way. They have reversed their position through this deal with PhRMA. Tragically, that has crept into the Senate Chamber as well. Key Senators on the Democratic side--MAX BAUCUS and JAY ROCKEFELLER and others--have reversed their position and apparently now are urging ``no'' votes for a policy they have long supported.

Well, we will know in a few hours who will be the winner--the American people, being given lower prescription prices, or PhRMA and politics as usual in Washington. Make no mistake about it, that is the choice. It couldn't be laid out in a clearer way. And to choose for the American people, to make real progress for lower prescription drug prices, we need to do not one but two things: first, to pass the Dorgan amendment, and second, and just as important, to defeat the Lautenberg amendment side-by-side, which would clearly, by all acknowledged sources, be a poison pill to reimportation--an easy way for the administration to ensure reimportation never happens.

I urge all of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to vote for lower prescription drug prices, to vote for the American people, and certainly to vote against Washington politics as usual, which the American people are so completely disgusted and fed up with. I urge that vote. Americans all around the country, in all our home States, will remember it and will thank us for it because we will actually be providing a real solution to a real problem and bringing them significantly lower prescription drug prices.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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