HELP Committee Vote Lines Up With Big Pharma Interests

July 29, 2009 - On June 25, during the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) markup session of the health care reform bill, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) offered an amendment that would improve consumer access to imported prescription drugs. Specifically, this amendment would:

  • Remove the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limitations on prescription drugs that have been imported from outside the United States;
  • Require that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) verify that imported prescription drugs are safe;
  • Ban manufacturers from engaging in actions that reduce the availability of qualifying imported prescription drugs; and
  • Specify provisions for Internet purchases of prescription drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is opposed to drug importation legislation, citing safety concerns, and is on record opposing a similar bill introduced earlier this year.

The Senate HELP Committee did not pass this amendment: 12 Senators voted NO on the McCain amendment and 10 Senators voted YES. As a result, the version of the health care bill that was reported out of the committee on July 15 did not include this provision.'s analysis of campaign contributions data reveals that Senators who voted with pharmaceutical manufacturing interests on this committee amendment received almost three times as much money from that industry than those who voted for the amendment. From January 2003 through May 2009, the 12 Senators voting NO on the McCain amendment received an average of $115,116 from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry; the 10 Senators voting YES received on average $41,975. These figures exclude contributions to presidential campaigns.


  • Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).
  • The text of the McCain Amendment (Amendment #4) and the recorded votes have not officially been released, but video footage of the markup session and roll call vote is publicly available on the Senate HELP Committee website:
Congressional campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturing, January 2003 - May 2009,
to voters on the McCain drug importation amendment in the Senate HELP Committee, June 25, 2009

Politician Party State Contributions Vote
Alexander R TN $107,450 NO
Bingaman D NM $48,500 NO
Burr R NC $276,148 NO
Enzi (Ranking Member) R WY $144,500 NO
Gregg R NH $122,500 NO
Hagan D NC $2,650 NO
Hatch R UT $234,950 NO
Isakson R GA $119,599 NO
Mikulski D MD $67,995 NO
Murkowski R AK $54,050 NO
Murray D WA $123,900 NO
Roberts R KS $79,150 NO
Average contributions received by NO voters $115,116  
Politician Party State Contributions Vote
Brown D OH $17,300 YES
Casey D PA $33,250 YES
Dodd D CT $145,125 YES
Harkin D IA $81,800 YES
Kennedy (Chairman) D MA $70,450 YES
McCain R AZ $7,000 YES
Merkley D OR $18,500 YES
Reed D RI $34,100 YES
Sanders I VT $420 YES
Whitehouse (Attending and voting on behalf of Franken: D-MN) D RI $11,800 YES
Average contributions received by YES voters $41,975  
Politician Party State Contributions Vote
Coburn R OK $21,051 Not Voting

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