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Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I take the floor this afternoon to discuss the issue of importation of prescription drugs and the amendment, which is No. 1229, which is pending but may be made nongermane because of a vote, if cloture is invoked.

There has also been some discussion about the fact that I am holding up the bill because of my desire for this amendment. I am not. I am simply asking for 15 minutes or even 10 minutes of debate and a vote. I understand there are other amendments, such as one by Senator Lieberman and one by Senator Burr, that also should be considered. I wish to point out that I am not holding up the bill nor putting any hold on the legislation. The fact is, importation of prescription drugs is certainly germane and should apply to this legislation before us.

Last week, the majority leader was kind enough to say he would see about this amendment and when it could be considered. He has just informed me that he has discussed the possibility that it be brought up on the health care legislation when it comes to the floor. One, the issue cannot wait and, two, that is not an ironclad commitment. As much as I enjoy people's consideration around this body, from time to time I have found that without an ironclad commitment, sometimes those commitments of consideration go by the wayside. But I do appreciate very much the majority leader seeking to help me address this issue.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that when the Senate begins consideration of H.R. 1256, it be in order for the Senate to consider amendment No. 1229 regarding prescription drug importation, the text of which is at the desk, and I ask that the amendment be considered in order, with 15 minutes of debate on the amendment equally divided between both sides, and that at the disposition of such time, the Senate vote on or in relation to the amendment.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. In my capacity as a Senator from the State of Virginia and at the request of the leadership, I object.

Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Chair. I am not surprised. But if there is to be any allegation that this bill is being held up because of this amendment, that is simply patently false. In fact, I am more than eager to vote on this legislation because it has been before this body for a long time and it is a very clear-cut issue. The pharmaceutical industry has spent millions of dollars to sway lawmakers against the idea of drug importation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an article from The Hill newspaper.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, it says:

Just a few years ago, before Democrats took control of Congress, the pharmaceutical industry was busy funneling millions to Republican candidates, at times giving the GOP three dollars for every one headed to Democrats.

Over the last two cycles, though, drug makers have been much more generous with the other party. In the 2008 cycle, pharmaceutical companies gave the two parties about $14.5 million each, and this year the industry has given $714,000 to Republicans and $721,000 to Democrats.

Which helps to explain the e-mail sent by the top lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, which stated:

The Senate is on the tobacco bill today. Unless we get some significant movement, the full-blown Dorgan or Vitter bill will pass. ..... We're trying to get Senator Dorgan to back down--calling the White House and Senator Reid. Our understanding is that Senator McCain has said he will offer regardless ..... Please make sure your staff is fully engaged in this process. This is real.

It really is real. It is real that it would provide savings to the millions of Americans who have lost a job, millions of Americans who are struggling to put food on the dinner table, and millions of Americans who are struggling with health care costs and the high cost of prescription drugs.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this amendment would save American consumers $50 billion over the next decade. Let me repeat--$50 billion. Why is that? The Fraser Institute found in 2008 that Canadians paid on average 53 percent less than Americans for identical brand-name drugs. Specifically, the institute found that the most commonly prescribed brand-name drug, Lipitor, is 40 percent less in Canada, Crestor is 57 percent less in Canada, and the popular arthritis drug Celebrex is 62 percent less expensive in Canada. Americans would love a 60-percent off coupon for prescription drugs and deserve such a discount now more than ever.

This morning, President Obama met with his Cabinet and announced that he intended to accelerate the distribution of the $787 billion stimulus funds, which, by the way, were all supposed to be shovel-ready, but that is the subject of a different debate. Many have lamented the slow pace at which the stimulus funds are being spent. This amendment would provide an immediate stimulus to each and every American if enacted. Over half of all Americans must take a prescription drug every day, according to a 2008 poll by Kaiser Public Opinion, and millions more take prescription drugs when diagnosed with a virus or other ailment. Many Americans who are cutting household expenses cannot afford to cut out the prescription drugs they must take each day for their health. We must help these Americans by enacting this amendment.

Some of my colleagues have argued that this amendment should not be considered on legislation regulating tobacco and my efforts to add this amendment to the bill are actually holding up the bill.

The amendment is directly relevant to the underlying legislation. The bill would require the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco because of its well-known negative health effects. This amendment would require the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the importation of prescription drugs from importers declared safe by the FDA. I reject any argument that this amendment is not related.

Furthermore, it is well documented that smokers have higher health costs than nonsmokers. So this amendment is necessary to assist those who have experienced so many health issues due to smoking. Smoking kills. I have supported stricter regulation of tobacco products for 10 years. In fact, this bill contains many of the provisions included in the National Tobacco Policy and Youth Smoking Reduction Act I introduced and fought for weeks on the floor of this Senate to achieve passage.

I don't seek to hold up consideration of the bill. I merely ask for an up-or-down vote on the amendment. Therefore, I think the American people deserve better than the monetary influence buying by PhRMA, an organization that has spent tens of millions of dollars to prevent the American consumer from being able to acquire prescription drugs, screened by the FDA, at a lower cost. That is what this is all about. It is the special interests versus the American interests, and special interests--in this case, PhRMA--have won rounds 1 through 9. We will not quit this fight because the American people deserve it, particularly in these difficult economic times.

We may be blocked on this bill. We may be blocked on the next bill. But we will come back and back and keep coming back. That is my message to the other side and those at PhRMA. We will succeed in allowing Americans to acquire much needed, in some cases lifesaving, prescription drugs at a lower cost for themselves and their families. That is what this amendment is all about.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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