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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. I ask for unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the Senator from North Dakota.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. McCAIN. I think it is important for us to recognize what the Dorgan amendment is all about. It is about an estimated--according to the Congressional Budget Office, and we love to quote the Congressional Budget Office around here--$100 billion or more in consumer savings. That is what the Dorgan amendment does.

It cuts the cost of the legislation before us as much as $19.4 billion over 10 years. We are always talking about bending the cost curve, saving money, particularly for seniors who use more prescription drugs than younger Americans, and yet there is opposition.

I would like to ask my colleague from North Dakota, one, how long has he been fighting this issue; and, two, why in the world do we think anybody would be opposed to an amendment that would save $100 billion for consumers?

Mr. DORGAN. We have been working on this for 10 years--myself, the Senator from Arizona, and others. He knows because he was chairman of the Commerce Committee. We held hearings on this in the committee. The fact is, we have gotten votes on it before. In each case, the pharmaceutical industry, which has a lot of muscle around here, prevailed on those votes with an amendment that is a poison pill amendment saying somebody has to certify with respect to no additional safety risk and so on.

These safety issues are completely bogus, absolutely bogus. They have done in Europe for 20 years what we are proposing to do in this country, parallel trading between countries. What we are trying to do is save the American people $100 billion in the next 10 years because we are charged the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and there is no justification for it.

I want to show the Senator from Arizona one chart. This is representative. If you happen to take Nexium, for the same quantity you pay $424 in the United States, if you were in Spain, you would pay $36; France, $67; Great Britain, $41; Germany, $37. Why is it the American consumer has the privilege of paying 10 times the cost for exactly the same drug put in the same bottle made by the same company in the same plant? Justify that.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I also ask my friend, has he seen this chart? This chart shows that the pharmaceutical companies in America increased wholesale drug costs, which doesn't reflect the retail drug cost, by some 8.7 percent just this year, while the Consumer Price Index--this little line here, inflation--has been minus 1.3 percent.

How in the world do you justify doing that? These are lists of the increases over a year in the cost of some of the most popular or much needed prescription drugs. Why would pharmaceutical companies raise costs by some 9 percent unless they were anticipating some kind of deal they went into?

I don't want to embarrass the Senator from North Dakota, but isn't it true that the President, as a Member of this body, cosponsored this amendment?

Mr. DORGAN. That is the case. The President was a cosponsor of this legislation when he served last year. I do want to say as well the American consumer gets to pay 10 times the cost for Nexium. Nexium is for acid reflux, probably a condition that will exist with some after this vote because my understanding is, after 7 days on the floor of the Senate, there is now an arrangement by which the pharmaceutical industry will probably have sufficient votes to beat us, once again, which means the American people lose.

I also want to make this point. Anyone who stands up and cites safety and reads the stuff that has come out of a copying machine for 10 years, understand this: Dr. Peter Rost, former vice president of marketing for Pfizer, formerly worked in Europe on the parallel trading system, said:

The biggest argument against reimportation is safety. What everyone has conveniently forgotten to tell you is that in Europe reimportation of drugs has been in place for 20 years.

It is an insult to the American people to say: You can make this work in Europe for the benefit of consumers to get lower prices, but Americans don't have the capability to make this happen, don't have the capability to manage it. That is absurd. This safety issue is unbelievably bogus.

Mr. McCAIN. Haven't we seen this movie before? The movie I am talking about is that we have an amendment or legislation pending before the body or in committee that will allow for drug reimportation, as the Senator pointed out from that previous chart, in a totally safe manner. Then there is always, thanks to the pharmaceutical lobbyists--of which there are, I believe, 635 pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, a lobbyist and a half for every Member of Congress--an amendment that then basically prohibits the reimportation of drugs.

Haven't we seen this movie before? Apparently another deal was made so that they are now going to have sufficient votes to again cost the consumers $100 billion more in cost for the pharmaceutical drugs. Their representatives are here on the Senate floor ready to tout the virtues of an amendment which, as we all know, is a killer amendment. Let's have no doubt about that.

Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, the Senator from Arizona is right. If this is ``Groundhog Day'' for pharmaceutical drugs, the clock strikes 6 and the pharmaceutical industry wins. They have been doing it for 10 years. We just repeat the day over and over again. My hope is that we will not have to repeat it today. My hope is that after a lot of work on a bipartisan piece of legislation, the American people will have sufficient support on the floor of the Senate to say it is not fair for us to be paying double, triple and 10 times the cost of prescription drugs that others in the world are paying.

I wonder if we might be able to yield some time to the Senator from Iowa, 5 minutes, unless the Senator from Arizona wishes to conclude.

Mr. McCAIN. My only conclusion is that what we are seeing is really what contributes to the enormous cynicism on the part of the American people about the way we do business. This is a pretty clear-cut issue. As the Senator from North Dakota pointed out, it has been around for 10 years. For 10 years we have been trying to ensure the consumers of America would be able to get lifesaving prescription drugs at a lower cost. And the power of the special interests, the power of the lobbyists, the power of campaign contributions is now being manifest in the passage of a killer amendment which will then prohibit--there is no objective observer who will attest to any other fact than the passage of the follow-on amendment, the side-by-side amendment, will prohibit the reimportation of prescription drugs into this country which we all know can be done in a safe fashion and could save Americans who are hurting so badly $100 billion a year or more and cut the cost of the legislation before us by $19.4 billion. To scare people, to say that these drugs that are being reimported are not done in a safe manner to ensure that the American people's health is not endangered is, of course, an old saw and an old movie we have seen before. It is regrettable that the special interests again prevail at the power of the pharmaceutical lobby.

Of the many traits the Senator from North Dakota has that I admire, one of them is tenacity. I want to assure him that I will be by his side as we go back again and again on this issue until justice and fairness is done and we defeat the special interests of the pharmaceutical industry which have taken over the White House and will take over this vote that will go at 6 o'clock. It is not one of the most admirable chapters in the history of the Senate or the United States Government.


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