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Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I came to the floor to discuss another issue. But since my friend from Illinois, with whom I share many of his comments, I have to comment. The fact is that the irony of the Supreme Court decision today said it is a Federal responsibility to ensure our borders and not the States' responsibility. The State of Arizona acted because the Federal Government wouldn't act, because our borders were broken, because the people in the southern part of our State were living in fear, because a rancher was killed by someone who had crossed our border illegally, because people are on mountaintops today guiding drug runners across our border into Arizona with drugs ending up in Phoenix, AZ, and distributed all over this Nation, $887 million wasted on a contract for a virtual fence.

Coyotes bring these people across and then treat them in the most abominable fashion, where they are put into drop houses and kept in the worst kinds of conditions and held for ransom.

Because the Federal Government would not secure our borders, the State of Arizona believed they had to act because people in the southern part of our State and even other parts of our State were living in fear. They are living in fear because of the drug dealers who are coming across, because of the coyotes who are mistreating the people they were bringing.

Of course we want to address the issue of children who weren't born here. But we also have an obligation to have our borders secured. I repeat--today, I say to my friend from Illinois--there are people sitting on mountaintops hired by the drug cartels who are guiding the drug runners across our borders and up to Phoenix. You can ask the DEA. These drugs are then distributed throughout the country from Phoenix, AZ. People are murdered, and the violence on the other side of the border threatens every day to spill over to our side of the border. So I hope, as a result of this decision, the administration will get serious about actually securing our border. Every expert agrees that because of the work that has been done in California and Texas it has funneled through the State of Arizona.

Have there been improvements? Of course there have been improvements. Is it still going on? As long as we have guides sitting on mountaintops guiding drug dealers, we haven't got a secure border. That is what the people of Arizona not only want but they also deserve.

By the way, Mitt Romney agrees that we have to address this issue in a comprehensive fashion as well as concern about the plight of the children who are brought here illegally. But I would also point out to my friend that part of the DREAM Act, as proposed by the Senator from Illinois, is 2 years' service in the military. We don't sign people up for 2 years. Average citizens, in order to get on a path to a green card and citizenship, sign up for 4 years. That is just one of the areas that need to be worked out.

So there will be a lot of conversation about this. But I believe people who live inside of our country--no matter whether it is in Arizona or Illinois--deserve the right to live in a safe environment. The people who live in the southern part of our State do not have that.

So I hope we can get our borders secure and we can move forward with comprehensive immigration.

By the way, then-Senator Obama was one of the key reasons it failed because he wanted to sunset the guest worker program. That is a fact, and you can look it up, I say to my friend from Illinois. Although it was killed by people on this side, it was also a broken promise on the part of then-Senator Obama who assured Senator Kennedy and me that he wouldn't vote for an amendment that would impair the progress of comprehensive reform at that time.

I look forward to having further discussions with the Senator from Illinois as we move forward--sooner or later--with comprehensive immigration reform, which is absolutely needed. But we also have to ensure the security of all of our citizens and stop the flow of drugs across our southern border, which is killing our young Americans.

By the way, I would say to the Senator from Illinois, the price of an ounce of cocaine on the streets of Chicago today is not one less penny higher than it was 10 years ago, which means we are not restricting the flow of drugs coming into our country. As we all know, the majority of it comes across from our southern border.

Finally, I would remind my friend from Illinois that then-Senator Obama promised in the campaign of 2008 that immigration reform would be his first priority. The Senator had 60 votes over here and an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives in the first 2 years of the Obama administration. I never saw a proposal come to the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. Now, the DREAM Act did. Comprehensive immigration reform? No. That is what then-Senator Obama promised.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for a colloquy between myself and the Senator from Illinois.


Mr. DURBIN. Let me say, the Senator from Arizona is my friend, and there are many things we have worked on together, and I respect him very much. He knows, as I do, when the DREAM Act was called, we thought the introductory may be the easiest part of immigration reform. It was stopped by a Republican filibuster.

Mr. McCAIN. I don't dispute that point, I say to my friend from Illinois. There was no comprehensive immigration reform proposal that came over from the White House or from the Democrats, as was promised by then-Senator Obama when running for the Presidency. That is a fact.

Mr. DURBIN. I would say to the Senator from Arizona, as part of this colloquy, we thought that would be the first step. We couldn't get past the first step because of the Republican filibuster.

Mr. McCAIN. I wish that when then-Senator Obama was running for President he would have said: But first I am coming over with the DREAM Act. He didn't. He said: My first act will be comprehensive immigration reform.

I was invited over to the White House in 2009. We talked about comprehensive immigration reform and I said: I will await a proposal from the administration on comprehensive immigration reform. My phone never rang.

Mr. DURBIN. I say to the Senator from Arizona, perhaps the day will come in our lifetime when we can see that, and you and I can work on it together again as we once did before. I would look forward to that.

Mr. McCAIN. I look forward to it, and I want to say there has been no more passionate advocate in the Senate than the Senator from Illinois. I respect him and admire him for his compassion and his concern about young people whose lives, as he very well described, need to have some kind of assurance for their future since it is clearly a compelling humanitarian situation. I thank my friend from Illinois.


Mr. President, later this week the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the health care bill, designed and negotiated by the White House and rammed through Congress during President Obama's first year in office when the economy was near its weakest.

Instead of focusing on recovery and persistent unemployment, the President and the Democratic majorities controlling Congress squandered the opportunity and forced the unpopular and potentially unconstitutional legislation on the American people.

Today we are voting on final passage on the reconciled FDA user fee bill. During Senate consideration of this bill I offered an amendment to allow safe drug importation from legitimate Canadian pharmacies. But the pharmaceutical industry spread misleading and inaccurate information about the amendment, as they have done time and a time again. As I said then, there is no greater example of the influence of special interests on this body than the failure to enact an amendment that would have allowed drugs from legitimate Canadian pharmacies so people could purchase their much needed medication at sometimes half the cost of what it is in the United States of America. I am embarrassed to this day that nine of my Republican colleagues also voted against it.

I don't know if there was a sweetheart deal to protect PhRMA at the expense of American patients from the vote on my amendment. But we do know that PhRMA was protected by the White House and Senate Democrats from provisions they didn't like in ObamaCare only after they offered up advertising in exchange for more accommodating policies.

From a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation, it is now confirmed that PhRMA orchestrated a grand deal with the White House and Senate Democrats to oppose importation and other policies. I might point out then-Senator Obama supported drug importation.

This is how the New York Times described the deal that was done in exchange for reportedly $150 million in advertising to support ObamaCare, June 8, 2012:

After weeks of quiet talks, drug industry lobbyists were growing nervous. If they were to cut a deal with the White House on overhauling health care, they needed to be sure President Obama would stop a proposal by his liberal allies intended to bring down medicine prices.

On June 3, 2009, one of the lobbyists e-mailed Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president's top health care adviser. Ms. DeParle sent a message back reassuring the lobbyists. Although Mr. Obama was overseas, she wrote, she and other top officials had ``made a decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on the bill.'' Just like that, Mr. Obama's staff abandoned his support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices and with it solidified a growing compact with an industry he had vilified on the campaign trail the year before.

A president who had promised to air negotiations on C-SPAN cut a closed-door deal with the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, signifying to some disillusioned liberal supporters a loss of innocence, or perhaps even the triumph of cynicism.

Still, what distinguishes the Obama-industry deal is that he had so strongly rejected that very sort of business as usual.

Ironically, candidate Obama sang a very different tune on the campaign trail in 2008:

You know, I don't want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game playing.

Now, PhRMA is the lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry. The New York Times article continued:

The e-mails, which the House committee obtained from PhRMA and other groups, document a tumultuous negotiation, at times transactional. .....

In the end, the White House got the support it needed to pass its broader priority, but industry emerged satisfied as well. ``We got a deal,'' wrote Bryant Hall, then senior vice president of the pharmaceutical group.

In July, the White House made clear that it wanted supportive ads using the same characters the industry used to defeat Mr. Clinton's proposal 15 years earlier. ``Rahm asked for Harry and Louise ads thru third party,'' Mr. Hall wrote.''

Talks came close to breaking down several times. In May, the White House was upset that the industry had not signed onto a joint statement. One industry official wrote that they should sign: ``Rahm is already furious. The ire will be turned on us.''

The e-mails also detail extensive and direct negotiations with PhRMA, its drug company members, the American Medical Association, AARP, the American Hospital Association, unions, and many more. Members of the alliance all participated because they thought they were getting something more valuable--revenue to their organization or membership because the Federal Government was going to force everyone into some form of government-designed health insurance coverage--than what they were going to have to spend on advertising to support the legislation. Some reports have the PhRMA advertising commitment as high as $150 million, spread out through direct advertising in certain important States and among groups created to sound like they were looking out for patients or to tout the economic benefits of ObamaCare.

On June 11, 2012, the Wall Street Journal described the e-mails about the 2009 negotiations:

The joint venture was forged in secret in spring of 2009 amid an uneasy mix of menace and opportunism. The drug makers worried that health-care reform would revert to the liberal default of price controls and drug re-importation that Mr. Obama campaigned on, but they also understood that a new entitlement could be a windfall as taxpayers bought more of their products. .....

Initially, the Obamateers and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus asked for $100 billion, 90% of it from mandatory ``rebates'' through the Medicare prescription drug benefit like those that are imposed in Medicaid. The drug makers wheedled them down to $80 billion by offsetting cost-sharing for seniors on Medicare, in an explicit quid pro quo for protection against such rebates and re-importation.

``Terms were reached in June.....lead PhRMA negotiator Bryant Hall wrote on June 12 that Mr. Obama ``knows personally about our deal and is pushing no agenda.''

But Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman then announced that he was pocketing PhRMA's concessions and demanding more, including re-importation. We wrote about the double-cross in a July 16, 2009 editorial called ``Big Pharma Gets Played,'' noting that Mr. Tauzin's ``corporate clients and their shareholders may soon pay for his attempt to get cozy with ObamaCare.''

Mr. Hall forwarded the piece to Ms. DeParle with the subject line, ``This sucks.'' The White House rode to the rescue. In September Mr. Hall informed Mr. Kindler that deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina ``is working on some very explicit language on importation to kill it in health care reform. This has to stay quiet.''

``PhRMA more than repaid the favor, with a $150 million advertising campaign coordinated with the White House political shop. As one of Mr. Hall's deputies put it earlier in the minutes of a meeting when the deal was being negotiated, ``The WHdesignated folks ..... would like us to start to define what 'consensus health care reform' means, and what it might include. ..... They definitely want us in the game and on the same side.''

More on the ``WH-designated folks .....'' in a moment. The June 11 WSJ editorial continued:

In particular, the drug lobby would spend $70 million on two 501(c)(4) front groups called Healthy Economy Now and Americans for Stable Quality Care. In July, Mr. Hall wrote that ``Rahm asked for Harry and Louise ads thru third party. We've already contacted the agent.

Other groups like the AMA were also willing to commit their membership dollars to advertising in support of the legislation in exchange for their policy priorities. According to the Wall Street Journal:

``At least PhRM/I deserves backhanded credit for the competence of its political operatives--unlike, say, the American Medical Association. A thread running through the emails is a hapless AMA lobbyist importuning Ms. DeParle and Mr. Messina for face-to-face meetings to discuss reforming the Medicare physician payment formula. The AMA supported ObamaCare in return for this ``doc fix,'' which it never got.

``We are running out of time,'' this lobbyist, Richard Deem, writes in October 2009. How can he ``tell my colleagues at AMA headquarters to proceed with $2m TV buy'' without a permanent fix? The question answers itself: It was only $2 million.''

The emails uncovered by the House committee also describe potentially serious conflicts of interest for senior White House staff, their former businesses, who was really writing the legislation--the White House, Congress or affected industries--and questions about the appearance of the White House staff orchestrating the outside advertising campaign. On June 21, 2012 the Wall Street Journal further reported on the 2009 secret deals.


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I know my other colleagues are waiting to speak, but last month when we voted down this amendment to allow drug reimportation from pharmacies that are accredited by both the Canadian and American Governments, my statement was, and I will repeat it:

In a normal world, this would probably require a voice vote. But what we are about to see is the incredible influence of the special interests, particularly PhRMA, here in Washington.

What you are about to see [as I predicted just before the vote] is the reason for the cynicism the American people have about the way we do business in Washington. PhRMA--one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington--will exert its influence again at the expense of average low-income Americans who will, again, have to choose between medication and eating.

In response the Senator from New Jersey said, in opposition to my amendment:

It is not the special interests that have caused the Senate countless times to reject this policy. ..... .

This is about the health and security of the American people. That is why time after time the Senate has rejected it. It is why it should be rejected once again.

He was correct. It was rejected. The American people were rejected in favor of one of the most powerful special interest lobbies in Washington and it is a shame.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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