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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009--Motion To Proceed-Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009 -- (Senate - December 09, 2009)


Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the Dorgan reimportation amendment of which I am a cosponsor. I am very glad to support this important amendment. It is a bipartisan effort.

Unfortunately, most of this debate and effort about the underlying bill is anything but bipartisan. This is a welcome contrast to that, a bipartisan effort around a very important reform proposal--reimportation of prescription drugs.

We face an interesting situation. The United States is, by far, the biggest market for prescription drugs in the world. Yet with all that buying power and all that activity, we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world.

It is for a simple reason: We don't have a true worldwide free market in prescription drugs. We need to do that, in part, through reimportation.

Americans need lower prices. They need the sorts of prices being offered elsewhere. We need to break down this system by which the big drug companies can and do offer the same drugs at very different prices in different countries, and, of course, they offer them at the highest prices in the world in the United States. Americans should not have to choose between their lifesaving medicines and other basic needs, such as food and utility bills.

By voting for the Dorgan amendment and enacting comprehensive reimportation, we can directly address access to health care and truly lower health care costs, which I believe should be our top goal in this entire debate. That is what this amendment does. It gives Americans immediate relief from outrageously high prescription drug prices.

Our amendment allows individuals the freedom to buy their prescription drugs at affordable prices, while providing oversight to ensure that only FDA-approved and safe drugs are permitted.

Our amendment closes loopholes that big pharma has been using to fight reimportation, such as shutting down drugs to wholesalers who participate in reimportation.

Our amendment would close the poison-pill loophole requiring HHS certification, which has left it up to administrations to deny reimportation by making that comprehensive reimportation discretionary. It would shut down that poison-pill loophole.

We would make it mandatory that Americans have affordable choices for prescription drugs.

Many of us, Democrats and Republicans, and certainly including and starting with Senators Dorgan and Snowe, have long fought for this comprehensive solution. We have made important steps forward. The Senate has adopted amendments to allow personal reimportation. Just last year, we voted overwhelmingly, 73 to 23, that we need to enact this sort of comprehensive reimportation reform, and we have taken concrete steps, such as the personal reimportation provisions, some of which I have authored and passed through the Senate. But we need to go further, and we need this comprehensive approach.

Obviously, the big stumbling block in the way is the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, big pharma, which has spent millions in lobbying to stop this comprehensive approach. Just this past summer, Senator McCain read an e-mail on the Senate floor from a big pharma lobbyist outlining their strategy to derail those efforts in the Senate. More recently, there are reports that they may have struck a deal with the White House to derail these sorts of efforts and offered to spend tens of millions in support of so-called health care reform, perhaps with a deal to derail these efforts.

That is why I am so glad Democrats and Republicans are coming together around this amendment to say that enough is enough. We need to fight all of these backroom deals. We need to fight this pervasive influence by pharma and finally stand with average Americans and pass real, comprehensive reimportation reform that will bring down prices, bring down health care costs, which should be the top priority of all of us.

We all say we want to lower health care costs. That has been a big issue in this overall debate. Well, this amendment will absolutely do that. The Congressional Budget Office says that and independent analyses say that. Let's take an important step and do what we all say should be a top priority--actually lowering, in real terms, health care costs.

Again, I urge all of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to come together in a bipartisan way. I wish more of this debate and this effort was designed from the beginning to be truly bipartisan. But this amendment and this effort is. This amendment and this effort have been discussed for years. Let's finally get it done with a bipartisan vote to pass comprehensive reimportation.

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


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